Hubble Space Telescope does it again, from ESA’s “Hubblecast.”
An immense cosmic twister on Saturn’s South Pole.
New image from the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The spacecraft Dawn on its way to the asteroid belt, from JPL.
Today, the science of astronomy is being transformed by a new age of technological advances. On mountaintops around the world, scientists are opening ever larger telescopes, capturing light from ever more distant reaches of the universe.
That light may have traveled millions, even billions, of years to reach us. By the time it does, it offers a window into the distant past.
The Hubble Space Telescope is probing regions billions of light years away, when the universe was far younger than it is today. There, galaxies have blotchy, distorted shapes. They are pocked with the bright blue signature of myriad stars being born.
In the fold of our home galaxy, the Eagle Nebula is one of the richest of the great star nurseries. Intense stellar winds have sculpted a majestic castle of gas. Inside these giant columns, stars are being born. Yet for the dying stars that set this process in motion, the consequences are grim. Supernovae leave in their wake a range of bizarre objects. Among them, tiny ultra-dense objects called neutron stars, and their strange, other worldly cousins, black holes.
To some there is no vision more reassuring: the cycles of the sun and the moon, the heavens ceaselessly turning. The night sky is unchanging and eternal — Or so it seems. But modern astronomy has given us a much different vision: a universe that roils and vents its rage… In fierce radiation jets that erupt from newborn stars. In netherworlds where matter billions of times the mass of our sun collapses to a single point. In the most violent explosions since the Big Bang… The supernova.
They are strangers to us. Long as our world has lived among them, the stars have offered scant overtures, save their faint flickers across the void. They are messengers of a universe that seems utterly barren of other life. And yet, there is reason to believe our galaxy teems with planets.
To find other life in our solar system, we may have to prospect for it. Our destinations: Mars and Europa, one of Jupiters moons. Beneath Europa’s crust, scientists believe, is an ocean of volcanically heated mud — just the kind of environment that can spawn primitive microbes. The turbulence churning below is written across a veneer of ice. Europas surface is rent with fractures. The spacecraft Galileo recently sent back images of a zone, bulging with spill-over from the moon’s roiling interior. If life exists here, then who can doubt it also has emerged in the universe beyond?