Wolf-Rayet Star WR 31a Blows Hubble a Bubble

An interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gasses expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour 

Sparkling at the centre of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30 000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel). The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle WR 31a, and its uncatalogued stellar sidekick, is a Wolf–Rayet nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. Created when speedy stellar winds interact with the outer layers of hydrogen ejected by Wolf–Rayet stars, these nebulae are frequently ring-shaped or spherical. The bubble — estimated to have formed around 20 000 years ago — is expanding at a rate of around 220 000 kilometres per hour! Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a Wolf–Rayet star is only a few hundred thousand years — the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. Despite beginning life with a mass at least 20 times that of the Sun, Wolf–Rayet stars typically lose half their mass in less than 100 000 years. And WR 31a is no exception to this case. It will, therefore, eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova, and the stellar material expelled from its explosion will later nourish a new generation of stars and planets.
Credit: NASA/ESA

Space news (March 11, 2016) – 30,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina (The Keel) – 

The Wolf-Rayet star WR 31a, near the centre of this Hubble image, is a bright celestial beacon ejecting hydrogen in layers that are interacting with extremely fast-moving stellar winds to produce the ring-shaped bubble of an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium, and other gases viewed. 

Wolf-Rayet stars are the most massive stars detected during the human journey to the stars. WR 31a started life with over 20 times the mass of Sol. Our Sun is a main sequence star which is actually a little bigger than average. The more mass a star has, the shorter its expected life, which accounts for the short life span of this bright celestial beacon. In the words of NASA, massive stars “Live fast and die hard”. 

The mass of WR 31a puts it at the lower end of the mass scale for Wolf-Rayet stars, with the most massive estimates coming in at over 200 times the mass of our sun. The estimates of the mass of this type of star are still being worked on, so don’t take them to heart. 

Astronomers estimate WR 31a is only 20,000 years old, give or take a few thousand, which is around 10 percent of its life expectancy according to current theory. The life cycle of Wolf-Rayet stars is only a couple hundreds thousand years long, a mere blink of the eye in cosmic terms, which means this massive star will end its days as a spectacular supernova. 

The event we refer to as supernova is an essential part of the life cycle of the cosmos. Deep within these massive stars, the building blocks of the cosmos are created. It’s here the carbon, magnesium, calcium, and other elements that make up 4-5 percent of the universe are made using the extreme conditions that exist. 

We’re all stardust traveling on a pale-blue dot in the distance, across the vastness of space-time to an unknown but dreamed of ending. 

Watch this YouTube video on Wolf-Rayet star WR 31a.

Read about astronomers viewing gravitational waves for the first time.

Learn about the first moments of supernovae.

Read about mysterious waves detected moving across the planet-forming region of a nearby star.

You can learn more about Wolf-Rayet stars here. Talk to an astronomer about it here.

Follow the space journey of NASA

Learn more about the birth and death of stars here

Learn more about the supernova


Unforgettable Astroimages Create Memorable Moments with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The astronomers best friend
The newest star gazers dream is ready for your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”

Astronomy Products

With the Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Astronomy Products – Easy to use, an array of useful and reliable features, and an eye-catching 21 pixels of resolution makes the Canon EOS 5D Mark II a star gazers dream. Hidden within the Canon EOS 5D Mark II lies a 21.1-megapixel, full-frame complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor that captures celestial bodies in unforgettable high-resolution images that will make your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” the trip of your lifetime. This metal-oxide sensor allows stargazers to capture a wider field of view than previous sensors due to its 35.9mm by 24mm size.

Innovation in design, amazing in image

Designed to withstand the rigors of night time environments and possible collisions with the ground, or even a cement floor, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II saves large Astro-images in seconds to a Compact Flash memory card. You can view your image on the 3.0-inch, 920,000 dot LCD view screen on the rear of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II in all lighting conditions. Designers and engineers even included the option to add a handy and time-saving Canon TC-80N3 remote control to your Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which allows you to set multiple images with certain exposure times and the time period between your exposures.
If you love astronomy, check out my latest website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/, and then let me know what you think? 
 Learn how NASA astronomers are planning on detecting extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.Read about the latest news on life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.Take a look at the latest natural color images taken by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.


A Greek Letter for Every Star

Star maps and the Greek alphabet

Anybody understand Greek?

Astronomy names and designations

Astronomy questions and answers – The names and designations of the stars and celestial bodies in the night sky above your head were first officially documented around 1603. In this year, German mapmaker Johannes Bayer published his “Atlas of the Constellations”, in which he plotted the positions in the night sky of more than 2,000 celestial objects. Previous star charts in contrast designated stars according to their position within the mythological figures of constellations in the night sky.

Bayer’s Uranometria star classification system uses Greek letters to differentiate the varying brightness of stars in the night sky. Using Bayer’s system Alpha is normally used to designate a constellation’s brightest star, Beta to designate the second brightest in a constellation, and this trend continues through the Greek alphabet. Bayer would sometimes letter stars in a constellation sequentially as well and under this system, the stars of the Big Dipper, for example, are designed Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta.

Modern astronomers have made their own additions and tweaks to the star classification system in use today. Celestial Cartographers studying the night sky now use numbered characters as designators for stars and celestial objects in the night sky. They haven’t added any new Greek letters to the constellations in the night sky, so look for the greek letters listed below on star maps of the constellations in the night sky, and this will provide you with stars you can use as road markers on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.

Astronomers used the Greek letters to designate objects in the night sky

























A greek letter for every star
Good old English! It’s in English, right?

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole

To be a Planet, or Not to be a Planet?

Astronomers are constantly rethinking old theories and designing new ones to fit new ideas

Astronomy News – astrophysics: planets; the number and type of planets

Count the planets in the solar system and make an assessment of their various sizes and distances from Sol and the Earth as you leave on your “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”. You’ll find that the line between planet and smaller planetoids, like asteroids and meteorites, has yet to be firmly set in place in the astronomy books, and in the universe.

We were all taught during our school indoctrination of nine planets circling Sol at varying distances. Mercury and Venus lie closest to Sol, with the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn residing at greater distances from Sol, while Uranus, Neptune, and disputed Pluto orbit at the greatest distance on average as compared to the other planets. Millions of school and reference books, thousands of articles, and countless periodicals also include references to Pluto being officially recognized as the ninth planet in the solar system. The publishers of these publications will be calling for a rewrite of all of this material and the history books will have to be changed if some astronomers and space scientists have their way.

Planet X came spinning into the view of Caltech astronomer Michael Brown on July 29, 2005 and changed the way astronomers and star gazers think about Pluto and the definition of a planet. An icy, Kuiper Belt resident Michael named after Xena the warrior goddess of the famed television series, at least until the International Astronomical Union speaks on this matter, Planet x orbits Sol at a distance nearly twice as great as Pluto’s. Planet X’s 560-year orbit is also inclined to the ecliptic by nearly twice as much as Pluto’s, which results in Planet X being closer to Sol than Pluto during its orbit, at times.

Planet X is still a bit of an enigma to astronomers

Astronomy takes you to the Kuiper Belt
The largest Kuiper Belt objects compared

How much bigger is Planet X than Pluto? Astronomers have measured the brightness and distance of Planet X from Sol, as compared to objects of known brightness in the solar system. Based on their data and calculations, astronomers believe Planet X to be bigger than Pluto, but just how much bigger has yet to be firmly etched in stone by the various astronomical societies and agencies tasked with determining if Planet X is indeed bigger than Pluto and by how much. This fuzzy-news has pushed Pluto into tenth place in the nine planet race in the solar system and into second place in the size ranking of the objects in the Kuiper Belt and astronomers, and star gazers have only searched a small percentage of the Kuiper Belt for objects bigger than Pluto.

Will bigger objects than Planet X be discovered in the Kuiper Belt or somewhere on the outer fringes of the solar system? The first Kuiper Belt objects were viewed by star gazers and astronomers in the early 1990s, but since this time, larger and larger objects have been located in the Kuiper Belt. In 2002, an object half the size of Pluto was discovered floating in the Kuiper Belt, which astronomers named Quaoar. Just two years later, 2004DW and Sedna were discovered, each respectively two-thirds and three-quarters the size of Pluto. It wouldn’t be surprising, therefore, if star gazers and astronomers were to find an even larger object floating in the Kuiper Belt than Planet X at some point in the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time”.

The definition of a planet has changed over the years

Hubble has given us our best views of Pluto, so far. This photo shows Charon as well.
Compare the various sizes of the planets as you pass by
A distance object at best, Pluto looks quiet and serene here

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Journey Across the Surface of the Red Planet

This little rock looks like it has an interesting story to tell!

Opportunity is taking the human journey to the beginning of space and time to Mars every day
This little meteorite is telling planetary scientists studying Mars a few things

Opportunity is providing astronomers with a chance to study Mars up close

Astronomy News – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been travelling across the surface of the Red Planet looking at anything that interests scientists while making its way toward its main goal, Endeavour Crater. The latest object of study for planetary scientists playing with their toys is this meteorite NASA’s planetary scientists have affectionately named “Oilean Ruaidh”, which is also the Gaelic name of an island off the coast of northwestern Ireland. NASA planetary scientists first got a glimpse of this gem on September 16, 2010, which was the 2,363rd Martian day rover has spent on the surface of the Red Planet. The picture above was actually taken on September 24, 2010, using the panoramic camera on Opportunity, four days before Opportunity would continue its journey to Endeavour Crater, by travelling a distance of about 328 ft (100 meters).

The four days that planetary scientists spent looking at “Oilean Ruaidh” using the microscopic imager and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer of Opportunity to take a closer look at the texture and composition of this little meteorite revealed that it’s a nickel-iron meteorite. The image above is presented in a color close to the true color of the meteorite and combines component images taken through three Pancam filters admitting different wavelengths.

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Star Light, Star Bright

Supernova SN 2005E Says Hello to the Universe

Astronomy allows you to witness some of the biggest explosions in the universe
Supernova SN 2005E shines brightly on the edge of spiral galaxy NGC 1032

 An explosion for all time

Astronomy News – A supernova is one of the most spectacular and massive events astronomers journeying backward to the beginning of space and time view, and can often be billions of times as bright as Sol, or shine brighter than an entire galaxy. Take a journey to a supernova, like SN 2005E, which astronomers became aware of when it lite up the spiral galaxy NGC 1032 in 2005, and your view of life and the universe would change forever.

Supernova SN 2005E is shown in the halo of NGC 1032 (red arrow)

Astronomers spend countless hours looking for new supernovae to study

Astronomers had previously only viewed supernovae occurring in two ways during their Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time. In the first example, the massive core of a star collapses inward near the end of its life cycle, creating a shock wave that expels the star’s outer layers into the cold darkness of space and time. In the second, a white dwarf star steals matter from a companion star, until it reaches 1.4 solar masses. At this point, the white dwarf star is unable to support more mass, according to natural law, and detonates in a titanic stellar explosion brighter than a galaxy.

A team of astronomers looking at the data obtained by space scientists studying supernova SN 2005E believe this supernova could represent a third as yet unseen, path nature uses to create a supernova. This analysis of this team of scientists has determined that this supernova occurred in a region of space and time devoid of massive stars. They also determined that this supernova only ejected a small volume of stellar material (0.3 solar masses) and abnormally high levels of calcium and radioactive titanium into the universe.

Team member Alex Filipenko of the University of California, Berkeley, and team leaders Hagai Perets of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge and Avishay Gal-Yam of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, conclude supernova SN 2005E took place between a low-mass white dwarf star that was stealing helium from a companion star. They also believe the volume of calcium released during supernova SN 2005E was large enough that only a few similar supernovae would be sufficient per century to provide all of the calcium presently viewed in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Supernova SN 2005E Says Hello to the Universe

The Earth being round was old news to ancient astronomers

Read about China rejoining the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Are you looking for a great apochromatic refractor to keep you company on long nights during the winter?

Mankind’s Next Great Step into the Cosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope Takes Mankind to the Edge of Infinity

The James Webb Space Telescope Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time

The study of astronomy takes astronomers to places undreamed of in human consciousness

Astronomy News – Mankind’s Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time is about to voyage into unknown areas of the universe in search of answers to questions that were in the minds of the first-star gazers. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe or is life abundant? Plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in 2014, or earlier in 2015, are still on target, and this telescope will allow mankind to delve into regions of the universe and look for answers to these questions and more technical questions. The largest telescope ever constructed by mankind, the James Webb Space Telescope is slowly beginning to take shape in three NASA space centers around the United States.

A combined effort between the Canadian space agencies, NASA, and the European Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope is designed to allow us to view the universe in ways never before experienced by humankind. Once launched into space the James Webb Space Telescope will maneuver into position orbiting the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sol system, L2. This position in the solar system is just one of five locations where the gravitational pull of the Earth is equal to Sol’s. At this remote location a service call by astronauts is definitely out of the question and budget limits of the program. The James Webb Space Telescope simply must work upon arriving on station at L2, without the possibility of servicing by astronauts.

The absolute need for the James Webb Telescope to operate without a hitch upon arriving on station, and the facts learned during the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, has convinced the designers and engineers working on the James Webb Space Telescope that a new testing program is needed to ensure every component in the James Webb Telescope works as designed, before being launched into orbit. Over in the gigantic thermal-vacuum test chamber of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas technicians are currently preparing to begin tests designed to test the entire optical train of the James Webb Space Telescope. They want to ensure the optical system of the telescope operates as a single unit in a vacuum and at the correct operating temperature for optimum performance of the optical systems. In January, engineers started testing six of the primary mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope, to ensure everything is as it should be. By the end of 2014 engineers should be nearing completion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s 18 mirror segments, and all flight instrumentation should be tested and ready to go.

These mirror segments are currently undergoing testing by NASA technicians

The James Webb Space Telescope will take mankind on the next leg of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Once on location at L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will fully deploy its 18 hexagonal, gold-coated mirror segments to form a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 6.6 meters (259 inches). This is a full 6 times the light-collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope, but the designers and engineers have also added systems driven by software that will analysis the incoming image, and allow astronomers to fine tune the view by controlling the mirrors overall shape.

Out orbiting L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will be far from problematic heat sources, and with a tennis-court sized sunshade shielding the telescope from Sol, the heat-sensitive instrumentation of the telescope will cool passively in the cold darkness of space and time, to the required operating temperature of -388 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).

Astronomers believe the first stars created after the Big Bang possessed as much as 100 times Sol’s current mass, shine millions of times brighter than Sol, but only lived a few million years, before exploding in the first supernovae. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of allowing mankind to Journey to within about 180 million years after the Big Bang if astronomers are correct, and possibly view the first moments of the universe in space terms. Astronomers will also use the James Webb Space Telescope to view celestial objects that have been exciting the human imagination since they were first discovered in the time of the first-star gazers. Astronomers are currently preparing for the beginning of the era of the James Webb Space Telescope. They’ll soon be proposing all kinds of Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time that will hopefully provide a few answers to these questions that have been exciting mankind since the first time a human looked upward into the night sky.

Thousands of people have contributed to the designing, engineering and eventual launch into orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope

Learn why astronomy binoculars are a popular choice with amateur astronomers

Read about the Anasazi Indians

Read about astronomers viewing a supernova they think might have given birth to a black hole