2/14/11

Runaway


Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this stunning infrared portrait from the WISE spacecraft. In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving toward the top at 24 kilometers per second. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material and shaping the curved shock front. Around it are clouds of relatively undisturbed material. What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, its companion star was more massive and hence shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova catastrophically losing mass, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren't surrounded by obscuring dust.

From Apod. I could stare at this for hours. I am reading 'The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science' by Richard Holmes.
I thought I'd look up some of the discoveries discussed in the book; here is a galaxy spotted by the first lady of Astronomy, Caroline Herschel. Anyway, I LOVE their talk of interstellar material, tendrils and galactic discs. A little bit of romance on valentines day.


Shiny NGC 253 Galaxy, is one of the brightest spiral galaxies visible, and also one of the dustiest. Some call it the Silver Dollar Galaxy for its appearance in small telescopes, or just the Sculptor Galaxy for its location within the boundaries of the southern constellation Sculptor. First swept up in 1783 by mathematician and astronomer Caroline Herschel, the dusty island universe lies a mere 10 million light-years away. About 70 thousand light-years across, NGC 253 is the largest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, the nearest to our own Local Group of Galaxies. In addition to its spiral dust lanes, striking tendrils of dust seem to be rising from a galactic disk laced with young star clusters and star forming regions in this processed color image. The high dust content accompanies frantic star formation, giving NGC 253 the designation of a starburst galaxy.

2 comments:

Adam said...

when i was reading it, i just wanted to read a book about caroline herschel. (and there is one. The Comet Sweeper: Caroline Herschel's Astronomical Ambition)

frednileseyebrows said...

Hey Dell,

It's a bit daggy, but go see Hubble 3d at imax. It's pretty spectacular and it takes around a distant galaxy and then through the universe.

There are two for one vouchers floating about, let me knowif you want one (Email).