Astro Advent 2022 Days 1-8

Astro Advent 2022 Days 1-8
CW Leonis is a carbon star, a dying star on the way to becoming a white dwarf. [Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, and Toshiya Ueta (University Of Denver), Hyosun Kim (KASI)][Astronomy Now]

Christmas 2022 is past, but the daily "astro advent” images in the Bellaonline Astronomy Forum are still there to enjoy. The first eight days included the beautiful Carina Nebula, a smiley face on the Sun seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, and a breathtaking skyscape from Norway's Lofoten Islands.

Not all of the images have links, but there's a link to the forum at the end of this article.

1 A globular cluster, such as Palomar 6, is a richly populated star cluster. Gravity pulls its half million stars together into a globe shape. We know of some 200 globular clusters in the Milky Way, most of them older than the Milky Way itself. Such a cluster would provide a fabulous skyful of stars. If there are planets in the cluster, their night sky would greatly outshine ours. William Harris and Jeremy Webb at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have developed a model for such planets. Seen from Earth, there are about 20 first magnitude stars visible, but inhabitants of a cluster planet might well see 10,000.

2 The Carina Nebula is an enormous star formation region. It's around 460 light years across and lies some 8,500 light years from us. The image was taken in infrared light using a camera on the VLT (Very Large Telescope) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO's work is supported by a number of European countries and its Chilean host. Their telescopes are in three observing sites in the high altitude Atacama Desert with its superb viewing conditions. [Image credit: ESO/T. Preibisch]

3 Andromeda is a nearby large spiral galaxy. It contains around a trillion stars and is the most distant object we can see with our unaided eyes. Andromeda is also speeding towards us on a collision course. Fortunately, since it's two and a half million light years away, the collision isn't going to happen anytime soon. The Andromeda Galaxy was a winner for two talented young astronomers, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen of Sichuan, China. Their photograph of the galaxy earned them the prize of the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022.

4 About 400 light years away in the constellation Leo is CW Leonis, a carbon star. There's a photo of it at the top of this page. It looks as though it's in the center of a cobweb, but this dying star is throwing off its outer layers. It's on its way to becoming a white dwarf. The star's red-orange color shows its low surface temperature, which is 1260°C. (Our Sun is 5800°C.)

5 On a mountain in the Lofoten Islands of northern Norway, Giulio Cobianchi captured a fantastic skyscape. His photograph was featured by Capture the Atlas in their 2022 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year. Cobianchi describes his composition: Under the Milky Way, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the middle of the two arcs. A shooting star acts as the cherry on top, and above a colorful aurora, there is the Big Dipper! To the north, you can still see the light of the sun, which had recently gone below the horizon."

6 The Juno mission has been studying Jupiter. In order to protect it from Jupiter's strong radiation, the orbits are carefully planned. In addition, the probe was built so that instruments and electronics are shielded by centimeter-thick titanium walls. And NASA isn't hoarding the images. JunoCam sends raw images that are made available online. People are encouraged to download them and do their own image processing. Thomas Thomopoulos has processed an image of Jupiter and Ganymede. [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Thomas Thomopoulos © CC BY]

7 NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory found the Sun with with an apparent smiling face. This is an amusing example of pareidolia, which is seeing what seems to be a meaningful image in a random visual pattern. In this case, the dark patches making "the face" are coronal holes. These are regions where a fast solar wind shoots out into space.

8 One of the best known images from the Hubble Space Telescope is called The Pillars of Creation. It's one of several star-forming regions in the Eagle Nebula, a star cluster 7000 light years away in the constellation Serpens. The James Webb Space Telescope [JWST] has produced a new image of this feature. JWST used two cameras to get two separate images of this area. Combining the images produced a stunning new image.

Link to Astro Advent forum thread

You Should Also Read:
White Dwarfs
Andromeda Galaxy (M31) – Fascinating Facts
Aurorae - Polar Light Shows

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