The Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its haunting symmetries are seen in the very central region of this composited picture, processed to reveal an enormous but extremely faint halo of gaseous material, over three light-years across.
Made with data from ground- and space-based telescopes it shows the extended emission which surrounds the brighter, familiar planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star.
But only more recently have some planetaries been found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier active episodes in the star’s evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years old.
Image Credit & Copyright: Data: Michael Joner (West Mountain Observatory, BYU),
Romano Corradi (IAC), Hubble Legacy Archive – Processing: Robert Gendler
Jupiter looks a bit different in ultraviolet light. To better interpret Jupiter’s cloud motions and to help NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft understand the planetary context of the small fields that it sees, the Hubble Space Telescope is being directed to regularly image the entire Jovian giant.
The colors of Jupiter being monitored go beyond the normal human visual range to include both ultraviolet and infrared light. Featured from 2017, Jupiter appears different in near ultraviolet light, partly because the amount of sunlight reflected back is distinct, giving differing cloud heights and latitudes discrepant brightnesses.
In the near UV, Jupiter’s poles appear relatively dark, as does its Great Red Spot and a smaller (optically) white oval to the right. The String of Pearl storms farther to the right, however, are brightest in near ultraviolet, and so here appear (false-color) pink. Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede appears on the upper left.
Juno continues on its looping 53-day orbits around Jupiter, while Earth-orbiting Hubble is now recovering from the loss of a stabilizing gyroscope.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing & License: Judy Schmidt
This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII).
Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins but also striking to the human eye. The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect.
Pictured, Barnard’s Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion’s flashiness a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard’s Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago.
Image Credit & Copyright: David Lindemann