Cosmic Butterfly Mystery

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 16, 2013 – 2:50 pm -

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

New deep-sky images of the Milky Way’s central core reveal picturesque butterfly-shaped gas clouds left behind by dying stars called bipolar planetary nebulae.

And all appear to be mysteriously aligned with one another. Dozens upon dozens of these hauntingly beautiful stellar remnants are oriented in the same direction – despite being separated by many thousands of light years, and each exhibiting unique physical properties. Researchers are searching for how nature could come up with such a bizzare phenomena.

Learn more about this spectacular new discovery that has left astronomers scratching their heads in my story at National Geographic News


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Hubble Uncovers Hidden Moon of Neptune

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 21, 2013 – 7:43 pm -

Artist conception of view from Neptunes moon. Credit: NASA

Artist conception of view from Neptune's moon. Credit: NASA

Hubble Space Telescope is really a discovery machine in high gear – the orbiting observatory has bagged a new moon for Neptune – the 14th for the  blue ice giant.

At about 12 miles wide it isn’t exactly a huge chunk of celestial land but scientists are using this new finding in helping them understand how the distant planet got it’s retinue of satellites.

Read my Neptune moon story at National Geographic News.


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Amateur Sleuths Help Solve Cosmic Cold Case

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 28, 2013 – 10:46 am -

After being at the centre of a constant  stakeout by backyard stargazers for over a century , the cosmic suspect known as SS Cygni has finally blown it’s cover.  By  accurately pinning down the star system to 372 light years from Earth – which is much closer than what the Hubble Space Telescope suggested in 1999-  a major astronomical mystery surrounding our understanding of explosive binary star systems like SS Cygni has finally been cracked .

With the help of a worldwide network of dedicated amateur sleuths,  professional astronomers tracked down leads, sifted through evidence, finally putting to rest a decade old controversy surrounding the actual distance to this white dwarf-binary system.

Read more about a hobbyist stakeout helped solve a dwarf star enigma in my story at New Scientist magazine


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Photo: Famous Ring Nebula Gets Makeover

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 26, 2013 – 7:55 pm -

mage courtesy C. Robert O'Dell and David Thompson, Vanderbilt/LBTO/ESA/NASA

mage courtesy C. Robert O'Dell and David Thompson, Vanderbilt/LBTO/ESA/NASA

Considered an iconic deep-sky object for generations of stargazers, the famed Ring Nebula is given a makeover in this composite portrait—released May 23—taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.

Located 2,000 light-years away from Earth in the summer constellation Lyra, this psychedelic cloud of expanding gas and dust was formed from material thrown off by a dying, sun-like star.

The Ring Nebula image is just one of the best space photos chosen by editors at Nat Geo News. Check out the rest of the Space Gallery.

Here is the official video of what Hubble managed to unveil within the summertime Lyra constellation


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Hubble Spies a Cosmic Bauble

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 7, 2013 – 3:50 pm -

Hubble sees the ashes of a star gone supernova.   Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA. Acknowledgement: Claude Cornen)

Hubble sees the ashes of a star gone supernova. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA. Acknowledgement: Claude Cornen)

The Hubble Space Telescope has snapped an amazing image of a supernova remnant-  dubbed SNR 0519-  located in one of the Milky Way’s small satellite galaxies  150,000 light years from Earth.

Wispy shells of blood-red colored gas filaments appears to float peacefully in space however it marks the site of a cataclysmic event that occurred 600 years ago.

The shell of material we see in this image was once part of a white dwarf- an Earth-sized elderly star that may have looked a lot like our own sun in its younger days.  This stellar progenitor was in a close binary star system where gas from its neighboring star was gravitationally pulled onto the surface of the white dwarf.  Over time this gas accumulated and eventually detonated in a thermonuclear explosion that resulted in the beautiful deep-sky object that we see today .

As the years go by this gaseous envelope will continue to expand and ultimately, after many millennia, dissipate into the surrounding interstellar medium.

SNR 0519 is found within the southern constellation Dorado (the dolphin fish) within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) – the fourth largest galaxy in our local collection of islands of stars known as the Local Group.


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New Closeup Pic of Comet ISON

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 23, 2013 – 9:05 pm -

Hubble has taken its first close-up views of the much anticipated and potential ‘comet of the century’. On the night of April 10th, the space telescope snapped an image in visible light of Comet ISON while it was still at a whopping distance of 394 million miles from Earth (386 million miles from the Sun)- a bit closer than the orbit of Jupiter.

Check out the new image and read what Hubble has learned about this exciting, new comet at National Geographic News


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Wow! Horsehead Nebula Seen Like Never Before

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 22, 2013 – 8:51 am -

In honor of its launch 23 years ago the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a breathtaking, never-before-seen view of one of the most photogenic cosmic vistas in the night sky.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Horsehead in all it's glory. click image to enlarge! Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Dubbed the Horsehead nebula because of its obvious resemblance to a steed or chess piece in profile,  this dark cloud of gas and dust sits 1,500 light years from Earth in the winter constellation Orion and has been a favorite target for generations of backyard stargazers.

Read the rest of the story at National Geographic News


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Newfound Supernova Breaks Distance Record

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 5, 2013 – 8:29 pm -

Astronomers announced this week that they have witnessed a titanic explosion of a star where the light from the blast has taken more than 10 billion years to reach Earth.  The faint, near-infrared speck of light from this ancient beacon, dubbed UDS10Wil, now pushes back the previous record-holder by 350 million light-years.  The new-found supernova, along with seven other stellar blasts more than nine billion light-years out, is part of a three-year Hubble survey of faraway supernovae which will offer new clues as to the nature of dark energy.

One of my expert sources I interviewed for this story put this amazing discovery in perfect context by explaining it this way…

“If we step back from the scientific impact, just as a human being the idea is profound.  This supernova exploded 10 billion years ago, 5 billion years before the Earth or Sun even existed.  Another star was here, died, and from its ashes the Sun and Earth were formed.  Life evolved, then humans, we developed telescopes, even space telescopes, and then used them to catch a few precious photons from this supernova that is older than anything we’ve ever known.  You think dinosaur bones are old?  The Grand Canyon?  They are babies compared to these photons!“

- Andrew Howell, Astrophysicist at University of California at Santa Barbara.

Read all the details about this exciting new cosmic discovery that may help unlock some of the deepest mysteries about the Universe at National Geographic News.


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Hubble Spies ‘Walking Dead’ Star

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 20, 2012 – 10:27 pm -

Astronomers have discovered a nearly dead star that appears to have come back to life, giving a rare glimpse at what may be in store for our own solar system’s future.

the reborn star known as Abell 30 located 5,500 light years away and is at the heart of a glowing planetary nebula – formed during the death throes of sun-like stars that cast into space their outer layers of atmosphere via pulsations and wind .

Could our Sun become a zombie? Read the rest of my National Geographic story.


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 18, 2012 – 3:18 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news coming out this week I highlight on my weekly CTV News channel interview.


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