The massive galaxy cluster MACS J0717
This composite image shows the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 (MACS J0717, for short), where four separate galaxy clusters have been involved in a collision, the first time such a phenomenon has been documented. Hot gas is shown in an image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and galaxies are shown in an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The hot gas is color-coded to show temperature, where the coolest gas is reddish purple, the hottest gas is blue, and the temperatures in between are purple. MACS J0717 is located about 5.4 billion light-years from Earth. It is one of the most complex galaxy clusters ever seen.
The repeated collisions in MACS J0717 are caused by a 13-million-light-year-long stream of galaxies, gas, and dark matter, known as a filament, pouring into a region already full of matter. A collision between the gas in two or more clusters causes the hot gas to slow down. However, the massive and compact galaxies do not slow down as much as the gas does, and so move ahead of it. Therefore, the speed and direction of each cluster's motion, perpendicular to the line of sight, can be estimated by studying the offset between the average position of the galaxies and the peak in the hot gas.
© Stocktrek Images
The Heart and Soul Nebulae in the constellation Cassiopeia
The Heart Nebula (at right, aka IC 1805) and the Soul Nebula (at left, aka IC 1848, and also the Fetus Nebula), in Cassiopeia. Just right of upper centre is the open star cluster NGC 1027. The star cluster in the middle of the Heart Nebula is called Melotte 15. The patch of nebulosity at upper right detached from the rest is NGC 896. The field is filled with numerous other clusters and dark nebulas from lesser known catalogs. The field lies right on the galactic equator, with most objects here located in the Perseus spiral arm, the next one out from ours, some 6000 to 7500 light years away.
© Alan Dyer/Stocktrek Images
Rho Ophiuchi nebula
February 11, 2008 - Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Called Rho Oph by astronomers, it's one of the closest star-forming regions to our own solar system. Located near the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus, the nebula is about 407 light years away from Earth.
Rho Oph is a complex made up of a large main cloud of molecular hydrogen, a key molecule allowing new stars to form from cold cosmic gas, with two long streamers trailing off in different directions. Recent studies using the latest X-ray and infrared observations reveal more than 300 young stellar objects within the large central cloud. Their median age is only 300, 000 years, very young compared to some of the universe's oldest stars, which are more than 12 billion years old.
This false-color image of Rho Oph's main cloud, Lynds 1688, was created with data from Spitzer's infrared array camera, which has the highest spatial resolution of Spitzer's three imaging instruments, and its multiband imaging photometer, best for detecting cooler materials. Blue represents 3.6-micron light; green shows light of 8 microns; and red is 24-micron light. The multiple wavelengths reveal different aspects of the dust surrounding and between the embedded stars, yielding information about the stars and their birthplace.
The colors in this image reflect the relative temperatures and evolutionary states of the various stars. The youngest stars are surrounded by dusty disks of gas from which they, and their potential planetary systems, are forming. These young disk systems show up as red in this image. Some of these young stellar objects are surrounded by their own compact nebulae. More evolved stars, which have shed their natal material, are blue.
The extended white nebula in the center right of the image is a region of the cloud which is glowing in infrared light due to the heating of dust by bright young stars near the right edge of the cloud. Fainter multi-hued diffuse emission fills the image. The color of the nebulosity depends on the temperature, composition and size of the dust grains. Most of the stars forming now are concentrated in a filament of cold, dense gas that shows up as a dark cloud in the lower center and left side of the image against the bright background of the warm dust. Although infrared radiation at 24 microns pierces through dust easily, this dark filament is incredibly opaque, appearing dark even at the longest wavelengths in the image.
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