NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 17 January 2023: Andromeda Galaxy is simply riveting | Tech News

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 17 January 2023: Andromeda Galaxy is simply riveting

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a riveting snapshot of the Andromeda Galaxy and the oxygen-emitting blue arcs that surround it.

| Updated on: Jan 17 2023, 13:55 IST
What is your favourite Hubble Telescope image? NASA wants to know
Andromeda Galaxy
1/5 If you are interested in space, you must be excited about all the images shared by the various space telescopes. In 2022, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured and shared several beautiful images. And NASA wants to know which one is your favourite Hubble Telescope image of 2022? In its latest Twitter post, NASA's Hubble Telescope has shared 4 images released in 2022 and has asked to vote for your favourite image. It can be known that the four images shared by the Hubble Space Telescope are of DEM L 190, NGC 976, HCG 40, and Terzan 2. (Hubble Space Telescope)
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2/5 DEM L 190, is a remnant from a massive star that died in a supernova blast whose light would have reached Earth thousands of years ago. This filamentary material will eventually be recycled into building new generations of stars. Our own sun and planets are constructed from similar debris of supernovae that exploded in the Milky Way billions of years ago, according to NASA. (Hubble Space Telescope)
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3/5 The galaxy NGC 976 lies around 150 million light-years from the Milky Way in the constellation Aries. Despite its tranquil appearance, NGC 976 has played host to one of the most violent astronomical phenomena known – a supernova explosion. These cataclysmically violent events take place at the end of the lives of massive stars and can outshine entire galaxies for a short period. While supernovae mark the deaths of massive stars, they are also responsible for the creation of heavy elements that are incorporated into later generations of stars and planets. (Hubble Space Telescope)
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4/5 The Hickson Compact Group 40 (HCG 40) is an unusual close-knit collection of five galaxies. This menagerie includes three spiral-shaped galaxies, an elliptical galaxy, and a lenticular (lens-like) galaxy. Somehow, these different galaxies crossed paths in their evolution to create an exceptionally crowded and eclectic galaxy sampler. Caught in a leisurely gravitational dance, the whole group is so crowded that it could fit within a region of space that is less than twice the diameter of our Milky Way's stellar disk. (Hubble Space Telescope)
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5/5 The Terzan 2 is a globular cluster in the constellation Scorpio. Globular clusters are stable, tightly gravitationally bound clusters of tens of thousands to millions of stars found in a wide variety of galaxies. The intense gravitational attraction between the closely packed stars gives globular clusters a regular, spherical shape. As a result, images of the hearts of globular clusters, such as this observation of Terzan 2, are crowded with a multitude of glittering stars. (Hubble Space Telescope)
Andromeda Galaxy
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The Andromeda Galaxy is located nearly 2.5 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA/Yann Sainty/Marcel Drechsler)

The Andromeda Galaxy is one of the most distant, yet easily visible objects to the eye. Also known as Messier 31, it is a spiral galaxy located approximately 2.5 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Andromeda. According to NASA, the Andromeda Galaxy is twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy, spanning across nearly 260,000 light-years and containing over 1 trillion stars. One of the most striking features of Andromeda is its bright central region, known as the nucleus, which is home to a supermassive black hole. Apart from this, the galaxy also has spiral arms rich in dust and gas.

Andromeda is also home to a number of interesting objects, including globular clusters, planetary nebulae, and supernovae. NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a riveting snapshot of the Andromeda Galaxy and blue gas arcs near it, which are thought to be oxygen-emitting arcs. Shockingly, these arcs were only discovered last year by amateur astronomers and they were not seen in previously captured images of Messier 31.

The image was captured by Yann Sainty, a French amateur astrophotographer and Marcel Drechsler, a German astrophotographer.

NASA's explanation

Why are there oxygen-emitting arcs near the direction of the Andromeda galaxy? No one is sure. The gas arcs, shown in blue, were discovered and first confirmed by amateur astronomers just last year. The two main origin hypotheses for the arcs are that they really are close to Andromeda (M31), or that they are just coincidentally placed gas filaments in our Milky Way galaxy. Adding to the mystery is that arcs were not seen in previous deep images of M31 taken primarily in light emitted by hydrogen, and that other, more distant galaxies have not been generally noted as showing similar oxygen-emitting structures.

Dedicated amateurs using commercial telescopes made this discovery because, in part, professional telescopes usually investigate angularly small patches of the night sky, whereas these arcs span several times the angular size of the full moon. Future observations -- both in light emitted by oxygen and by other elements -- are sure to follow.

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First Published Date: 17 Jan, 13:54 IST