Astro Advent 2021 Days 1-8

Astro Advent 2021 Days 1-8
CW Leonis is a carbon star, a dying star on the way to becoming a white dwarf. [Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, and Toshiya Ueta (University Of Denver), Hyosun Kim (KASI)][Astronomy Now]

Christmas 2022 is past, but the daily “astro advent” images in the Astronomy Forum are still there to enjoy. The first eight days included the beautiful Carina Nebula, a smiley face on the Sun from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, and a breathtaking skyscape from Norway's Lofoten Islands.

Not all of the images have links, but there's a link to the forum at the end of this article.

1 A globular cluster, such as Palomar 6, is a richly populated star cluster. Gravity pulls its half a million stars together into a globe shape. We know of some 200 globular clusters in the Milky Way, most of them older than the Milky Way itself. Such a cluster would provide a fabulous skyful of stars. If there are planets in the cluster, their night sky would greatly outshine ours. William Harris and Jeremy Webb at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have developed a model for this. Although there are about 20 first magnitude stars visible from Earth, inhabitants of a cluster might well see 10,000.

2 The Carina Nebula is a massive star formation region. It's around 460 light years across and lies some 8,500 light years from us. The image was taken in infrared light using a camera on the VLT (Very Large Telescope) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO's work is supported by a number of European countries and its Chilean host. Their telescopes are in three observing sites in the high altitude Atacama Desert with its superb viewing conditions. [Image credit: ESO/T. Preibisch]

3 Andromeda is a nearby large spiral galaxy, a member of our Local Group of galaxies. It contains around a trillion stars and is the most distant object we can see with our unaided eyes. Andromeda is also speeding towards us on a collision course. Fortunately, since it's two and a half light years away, this is quite some way off. Andromeda was a treasure for two talented young men, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen of Sichuan, China, who photographed the galaxy. They were awarded the prize of the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022.

4 About 400 light years away in the constellation Leo is CW Leonis, a carbon star. You can see a photo of it at the top of this page. It looks as though it's surrounded by cobwebs, but they are the outer layers this dying star is throwing off. It's on its way to becoming a white dwarf. The star has the low surface temperature of 1260°C, giving it its red-orange color. (Our Sun is 5800°C.)

5 On a mountain in the Lofoten Islands of northern Norway, photographer Giulio Cobianchi captured a fantastic skyscape. His photograph "Inception"was featured by Capture the Atlas in their 2022 Northern Lights PhotoWgrapher of the Year. Cobianchi describes his composition: Under the Milky Way, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the middle of the two arcs. A shooting star acts as the cherry on top, and above a colorful aurora, there is the Big Dipper! To the north, you can still see the light of the sun, which had recently gone below the horizon.

6 The Juno mission has been studying Jupiter. In order to protect it from Jupiter's strong radiation, the orbits are carefully planned. In addition, the probe was built so that instruments and electronics are shielded with centimeter-thick titanium walls. NASA isn't hoarding the images. JunoCam sends raw images that are made available on the website. People are encouraged to download them and do their own image processing. Thomas Thomopoulos has processed an image of Jupiter and Ganymede. [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Thomas Thomopoulos © CC BY]

7 NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory found the Sun with what looked like a happy smiling face. This is an amusing example of pareidolia. It's seeing what seems to be a meaningful image in what is a random visual pattern. In this case, the dark patches that produced the face are coronal holes. They're regions where a fast solar wind shoots out into space.

8 One of the best known images from the Hubble Space Telescope is known as The Pillars of Creation. The James Webb Space Telescope [JWST] has produced a fantastic new image of this feature. The “Pillars” are one of several star-forming regions in the Eagle Nebula. This nebula is a star cluster in the constellation Serpens about 7000 light years from us. JWST took two separate images of this area, using two different cameras. Combining them has produced a breathtaking new image.

Link to Astro Advent forum thread

You Should Also Read:
White Dwarfs
Aurorae - Polar Light Shows
What Is a Nebula

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