Explanation: How do black holes like this form? The two black holes that spiraled together to produce the gravitational wave event GW190521 were not only the most massive black holes ever seen by LIGO and VIRGO so far, their masses — 66 and 85 solar masses — were unprecedented and unexpected. Lower mass black holes, below about 65 solar masses are known to form in supernova explosions. Conversely, higher mass black holes, above about 135 solar masses, are thought to be created by very massive stars imploding after they use up their weight-bearing nuclear-fusion-producing elements. How such intermediate mass black holes came to exist is yet unknown, although one hypothesis holds that they result from consecutive collisions of stars and black holes in dense star clusters. Featured is an illustration of the black holes just before collision, annotated with arrows indicating their spin axes. In the illustration, the spiral waves indicate the production of gravitational radiation, while the surrounding stars highlight the possibility that the merger occurred in a star cluster. Seen last year but emanating from an epoch when the universe was only about half its present age (z ~ 0.8), black hole merger GW190521 is the farthest yet detected, to within measurement errors.
Explanation: Illuminating planet Earth’s night, full moons can have many names. This year the last full moon of northern hemisphere summer was on September 2, known to some as the Full Corn Moon. A few days earlier on August 30 this almost full moon rose just before sunset though, shining through cloudy skies over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast. A well-timed snapshot caught the glare of rocket engines firing below the lunar disk, a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage successfully returning to Cape Canaveral’s landing zone 1. About 9 minutes earlier, the same SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket had launched the SAOCOM 1B satellite toward polar orbit. The fourth launch for this reusable Falcon 9 first stage, it was the first launch to a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral since 1969.
Explanation: Open star cluster NGC 7380 is still embedded in its natal cloud of interstellar gas and dust popularly known as the Wizard Nebula. Seen on the left, with foreground and background stars along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy it lies some 8,000 light-years distant, toward the constellation Cepheus. In apparent size on the sky, a full moon would cover the 4 million year young cluster and associated nebula, normally much too faint to be seen by eye. Made with telescope and camera firmly planted on Earth, the image reveals multi light-year sized shapes and structures of cosmic gas and dust within the Wizard though, in a color palette made popular in Hubble Space Telescope images. Recorded with narrowband filters, the visible wavelength light from the nebula’s hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms is transformed into green, blue, and red colors in the final digital composite.
A Halo for Andromeda Digital Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, J. DePasquale and E. Wheatley (STScI) and Z. Levay
Explanation: M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is the closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. Some 2.5 million light-years distant it shines in Earth’s night sky as a small, faint, elongated cloud just visible to the unaided eye. Invisible to the eye though, its enormous halo of hot ionized gas is represented in purplish hues for this digital illustration of our neighboring galaxy above rocky terrain. Mapped by Hubble Space Telescope observations of the absorption of ultraviolet light against distant quasars, the extent and make-up of Andromeda’s gaseous halo has been recently determined by the AMIGA project. A reservoir of material for future star formation, Andromeda’s halo of diffuse plasma was measured to extend around 1.3 million light-years or more from the galaxy. That’s about half way to the Milky Way, likely putting it in contact with the diffuse gaseous halo of our own galaxy.
Jupiter and the Moons Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Fedez
Explanation: How many moons do you see? Many people would say one, referring to the Earth‘s Moon, prominent on the lower left. But take a closer look at the object on the upper right. That seeming-star is actually the planet Jupiter, and your closer look might reveal that it is not alone – it is surrounded by some of its largest moons. From left to right these Galilean Moons are Io, Ganymende, Europa and Callisto. These moons orbit the Jovian world just like the planets of our Solar System orbit the Sun, in a line when seen from the side. The featured single shot was captured from Cancun, Mexico last week as Luna, in its orbit around the Earth, glided past the distant planet. Even better views of Jupiter are currently being captured by NASA‘s Juno spacecraft, now in a looping orbit around the Solar System’s largest planet. Earth’s Moon will continue to pass nearly in front of both Jupiter and Saturn once a month (moon-th) as the two giant planets approach their own great conjunction in December.
Explanation: SS 433 is one of the most exotic star systems known. Its unremarkable name stems from its inclusion in a catalog of Milky Way stars which emit radiation characteristic of atomic hydrogen. Its remarkable behavior stems from a compact object, a black hole or neutron star, which has produced an accretion disk with jets. Because the disk and jets from SS 433 resemble those surrounding supermassive black holes in the centers of distant galaxies, SS 433 is considered a micro-quasar. As illustrated in the animated featured video based on observational data, a massive, hot, normal star is locked in orbit with the compact object. As the video starts, material is shown being gravitationally ripped from the normal star and falling onto an accretion disk. The central star also blasts out jets of ionized gas in opposite directions – each at about 1/4 the speed of light. The video then pans out to show a top view of the precessing jets producing an expanding spiral. From even greater distances, the dissipating jets are then visualized near the heart of supernova remnantW50. Two years ago, SS 433 was unexpectedly found by the HAWC detector array in Mexico to emit unusually high energy (TeV-range) gamma-rays. Surprises continue, as a recent analysis of archival data taken by NASA‘s Fermi satellite find a gamma-ray source — separated from the central stars as shown — that pulses in gamma-rays with a period of 162 days – the same as SS 433’s jet precession period – for reasons yet unknown.