NGC 3132: The Eight Burst Nebula

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Explanation: It’s the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun. In this representative color picture, the hot blue pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it’s the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.

Globular Star Cluster 47 Tuc

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team
Explanation: Globular star cluster 47 Tucanae is a jewel box of the southern sky. Also known as NGC 104, it roams the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy along with over 150 other globular star clusters. The second brightest globular cluster (after Omega Centauri) as seen from planet Earth, 47 Tuc lies about 17,000 light-years away and can be spotted naked-eye near the Small Magellanic Cloud in the constellation of the Toucan. The dense cluster is made up of hundreds of thousands of stars in a volume only about 120 light-years across. Recent observations have shown that 47 Tuc‘s white dwarf stars are in the process of being gravitationally expelled to the outer parts of the cluster due to their relatively low mass. Other colorful low mass stars including yellowish red giant stars are easy to pick out on the outskirts of the cluster in this recently released sharp telescopic portrait by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Cluster and Starforming Region Westerlund 2

img25042015 Located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, the young cluster and starforming region Westerlund 2 fills this cosmic scene. Captured with Hubble’s cameras in near-infrared and visible light, the stunning image is a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope on April 24, 1990. The cluster’s dense concentration of luminous, massive stars is about 10 light-years across. Strong winds and radiation from those massive young stars have sculpted and shaped the region’s gas and dust, into starforming pillars that point back to the central cluster. Red dots surrounding the bright stars are the cluster’s faint newborn stars, still within their natal gas and dust cocoons. But brighter blue stars scattered around are likely not in the Westerlund 2 cluster and instead lie in the foreground of the Hubble anniversary field of view.