From the cosmic carnival parade to the most colorful image of the universe captured on the acrid surface of a supervolcanic moon — space is out in style in 2023. Here are our 8 favorite space photos of the year.
The first images of the Euclid space telescope
The European Space Agency’s Euclid telescope launched into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this year. The telescope is designed to map the composition of the “dark universe” — the collective name given to black matter and dark energy – but it’s also good at taking wide-angle images of the cosmos.
And the first images captured by a space telescope without exception: they are absolute jaw-droppers. Huge clouds of gas, clusters of sparkling stars and swirling spiral galaxies.
Perhaps our favorite is the image of the Horsehead Nebula. A stellar nursery located 1,500 light-years away in the Orion Nebula, this closest star-forming region to Earth is filled with stars that twinkle beneath a swirling mist of gas and dust.
In addition to mapping the invisible dark matter and energy in this region, Euclid will also search for Jupiter-mass planets, brown dwarfs and baby stars.
Juno looked at Io
it Amazing image of Jupiter’s third moon Iotaken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, is the highest resolution image captured in the past 22 years.
Io is the most volcanic world in our world solar system and 100 times more volcanic than Earth. And it shows. Volcanoes on its surface spew gas across the moon’s pockmarked surface. Look at the top of the image and you’ll see never-before-seen details of the moon’s north polar region, crowned by a group of mountains as high as 20,000 feet (6,000 meters).
JWST also nebula
Appearing similar to an all-seeing cosmic eye or the unfortunate remnant of a the big jelly donut is falling from a great heightthis James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) image of the 2,000 light-year distant Ring Nebula has a lot to take in.
Named for its large central and 10 concentric outer rings, the layers of this collapsing gas cloud form as the final act of a dying star, shedding layers of od of gas which is then pulled into the great smoke rings of a smaller neighboring star.
Compare this picture to 2013 image taken by the Hubble space telescopeand the unprecedented power of JWST is very easy to appreciate.
James Webb telescope reveals massive star ‘Mothra’ in most colorful image of universe ever captured
Taken with JWST’s powerful infrared instruments, this stunning parade of stars and galaxies across the galaxy cluster MACS0416 found 4.3 billion light-years from Earth.
Within the cosmic carnival are pinwheels of galaxies, ribbons of dust, and the swirling neon of distant starlight stretched by the weight of space in massive star clusters.
And images like this aren’t just useful for blowing our minds – the panchromatic display captures multiple wavelengths of light in one part of space. By measuring the shifts in these wavelengths due to the steady expansion of the cosmos, astronomers can determine the distances between many background and foreground objects.
Uranus’ ‘hidden’ rings revealed in dazzling new James Webb telescope images
The cool outer planet Uranus, located about 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) from the sun, not thought to be a “ringed planet”but that’s because its rings are too faint to be seen in most telescopes.
In fact, it took until the Voyager 2 spacecraft’s 1986 flight beyond the edges of our solar system for astronomers to confirm the existence of Uranus’ 13 rings – composed of a mixture of finely crushed ice. and dust.
Eleven of the planet’s 13 rings can be seen in this image. The last two are so faint that they can only be seen when the planet is tilted toward Earth so that all its rings overlap. That last happened in 2007, when the Hubble Space Telescope took the complete set. The next opportunity will be in 2091, once the planet has rotated enough on its side relative to Earth to give us (or possibly our children and grandchildren) the next glimpse.
Rare ‘rainbow clouds’ brighten Arctic skies for 3 days in a row
Put aside the multi-million dollar telescopes for a moment, because here is a scene that can be captured through two eyes and a turned head – provided, of course, you can brave the sub-freezing temperatures of the Arctic.
Taken above Gran in southern Norway by the photographer Ramunė Šapailaitė, these beautiful clouds begin to flash over the Arctic in late December due to the cooling of the upper atmosphere. They are known as polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) or nacreous clouds (nicknamed after the iridescent sheen of nacre or mother-of-pearl) and caused by sunlight scattering tiny ice crystals suspended in the air.
The James Webb space telescope has found a secret at the heart of the Crab Nebula
Sitting at the core of the Crab Nebula is flowing remnants of an exploded star. It went supernova in AD 1054 and the skin of the once massive star at the heart of the nebula is now a neutron star, rapidly spinning streaks of gas in all directions.
Training JWST’s camera on this nebula revealed tiny gas filaments of orangey red dotted with yellow-white and green dust grains. But it’s the azure smokey glow that attracted NASA scientists, because it’s the radiation produced by charged particles zipping along the magnetic field lines produced by the neutron star – possibly the first image of it that kind.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx capsule returns to Earth with sample from ‘potentially dangerous’ asteroid Bennu
It might be cruel to end a countdown of beautiful fluorescent images with a photo of a black and white space rock. But it’s what’s in this rock that excites us: the possible precursors to life on Earth.
The asteroid is called Bennu, a potentially dangerous asteroid with a 1-in-2,700 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2182 — the highest probability of any known object in space. But the main reason NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft landed on this distant pile of rubble was the chemicals lurking on the surface.
“This is the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever returned to Earth,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said to a news conference to return the sample to Earth. “Carbon and water molecules are exactly the elements we want to find. They are important elements in the formation of our own planet, and they will help us determine the origin of the elements that could lead to life.”
Small slices of the total sample have been extracted and sent to labs around the world. And with some initial results possibly coming as early as 2024, we can’t wait to see what’s on board.
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Image Source : www.livescience.com