Amazing Hubble telescope photo shows space ‘sword’ piercing huge celestial ‘heart’

A flaming blue sword seems to pierce a giant cosmic heart in a gorgeous new photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, B. Nisini

This image by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, features the Herbig-Haro object HH111, which lies about 1,300 light-years from Earth. Herbig-Haro objects consist of young stars blasting superheated jets through surrounding clouds of dust and gas. 

The “sword” is composed of twin jets of superheated, ionized gas that are rocketing into space from opposite poles of a newborn star called IRAS 05491+0247. The “heart” is the cloud of leftover dust and gas surrounding the protostar, according to Hubble team members.

This dramatic interaction between jets and cloud creates an uncommon celestial sight known as a Herbig-Haro object. The one photographed here by Hubble is named HH111, and it lies about 1,300 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Orion.

Hubble captured the image using its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument, which observes in both optical and infrared (heat) wavelengths of light. 

“Herbig-Haro objects actually release a lot of light at optical wavelengths, but they are difficult to observe because their surrounding dust and gas absorb much of the visible light,” European Space Agency (ESA) officials wrote in a description of the image, which was released today (Aug. 30).

“Therefore, the WFC3’s ability to observe at infrared wavelengths — where observations are not as affected by gas and dust — is crucial to observing [Herbig]-Haro objects successfully,” they added.

Hubble, a joint mission of NASA and ESA, launched to low Earth orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in April 1990. The first images the iconic observatory captured were fuzzy, a problem that team members soon determined was caused by a flaw in Hubble’s 7.9-foot-wide (2.4 meters) primary mirror.

Spacewalking astronauts fixed that issue in December 1993, and Hubble was further upgraded and maintained over the course of four more servicing missions. The WFC3 instrument was installed during the last of these Hubble-bound space shuttle flights, which took place in May 2009.

Hubble continues to provide amazing views of the cosmos, but it has begun to show its age, and, without the shuttle, astronauts can no longer feasibly access the observatory. (It’s technically possible that a crewed vehicle such as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule could reach Hubble, but that idea apparently has not been seriously investigated.) The telescope has overcome a number of glitches recently, including a computer problem that closed its supersharp eye for more than a month this summer.

By Mike Wall via Space.com

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship docks at space station in time for astronaut’s birthday

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship docks at space station in time for astronaut’s birthday

“No one’s ever sent me a spaceship for my birthday before.”

SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-23 cargo ship is seen with a bright blue Earth as a backdrop by a camera on the International Space Station during its docking approach on Aug. 30, 2021. (Image credit: NASA)

SpaceX’s latest Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) today (Aug. 30) to deliver an experimental robotic arm and a wealth of other research equipment and supplies just in time for one astronaut’s birthday.

“Congratulations to NASA and SpaceX teams and many thanks. No one’s ever sent me a spaceship for my birthday before,” NASA astronaut Megan McArthur radioed Mission Control just after docking. It’s her 50th birthday today. 

“That’s a most excellent birthday present,” NASA’s Mission Control in Houston replied.

The gumdrop-shaped Dragon docked with the station’s Harmony module at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) today, ending a 32-hour-orbital chase. The station and Dragon were sailing 264 miles (425 kilometers) above western Australia at the time.

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Dragon launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early Sunday morning (Aug. 29), kicking off the company’s 23rd robotic resupply mission to the orbiting lab for NASA. The uncrewed Dragon is packed with more than 4,800 lbs. (2,200 kilograms) of supplies and scientific experiments, including a super-dexterous new robotic arm that will get a microgravity test on the orbiting lab.

“This investigation supports development of robots to support crew intravehicular activities and, eventually, extravehicular activities,” team members wrote in a description of the experiment, which is called the GITAI S1 Robotic Arm Tech Demo. “Space robotics also could support on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing tasks, lowering the costs of such tasks and contributing to increased commercial activity in space.”

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Another experiment will test how a tiny drug-delivering implant performs in microgravity, and yet another will gauge the responses of various materials to the space environment.

There are now two Dragons parked at the ISS: the newly arrived cargo capsule and a crewed variant, which brought NASA astronauts McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide and the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet to the orbiting lab in April.

Those four astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth in November while their crewmates (NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy) remain aboard to continue their mission. The cargo Dragon will come down sooner; it’s scheduled to spend about a month at the ISS, NASA officials have said.

Both versions of Dragon survive re-entry, making ocean splashdowns under parachutes. This capability separates the resupply Dragon from other currently operational cargo craft, which burn up in Earth’s atmosphere when their missions are done.

Don’t Miss “Prime Time” for the Perseid Meteor Shower

Don’t Miss “Prime Time” for the Perseid Meteor Shower (By NASA)

Astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of August 11 and early morning of August 12, 2004 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. There are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. Credit: Fred Bruenjes

The best-known meteor shower of the year should be a good time this year on the peak night of August 11, with no bright Moon to interfere.

August brings the best-known meteor shower of the year, the Perseids. This annual meteor shower happens each year as Earth crosses the debris trail of comet Swift-Tuttle. Most of these meteors are grains of dust up to the size of a pea, and they create fabulous “shooting stars” as they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

We experience the Perseid meteor shower each year as Earth passes through the stream of debris left behind in the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s orbital debris. This debris field — mostly created hundreds of years ago — consists of bits of ice and dust shed from the comet which burn up in Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the premier meteor showers of the year.h

Meteor showers appear to radiate from a point called the radiant, though they can streak across the sky anywhere above you. For the Perseids, this point is in the constellation Perseus. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Although Perseids can be seen from mid-July through late August, the most likely time to see any is a couple of days on either side of the peak. This year the peak falls on the night of August 11th, and into the pre-dawn hours of August 12th. (Think of that as “prime time” for the Perseids.) Under really dark skies, you could see almost one per minute near the time of maximum activity.

This year’s peak night for the Perseids benefits from a Moon that sets early in the evening, so it won’t interfere with the fainter meteors. But before it sets that evening, be sure to check out that gorgeous crescent Moon in the west after sunset with the brilliant planet Venus.

On the night the Perseids peak, check out a beautiful scene with the crescent Moon near Venus in the west following sunset. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To enjoy the Perseid meteor shower, just find a safe, dark location away from bright city lights. Lie down or recline with your feet facing roughly toward the north and look up. The meteors appear to radiate from around the constellation Perseus, but they can streak across the sky anywhere above you.

NASA also has a way for you to catch some Perseids online. NASA’s Meteor Watch team plans a live stream overnight on August 11. Visit this link for more details.