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Monster solar flare this year was the best-observed in history
With such a detailed view of the X-class flare, scientists will gain a better understanding of what causes the flares and possibly predict them in the future.


Uranus from Saturn, 28.6 astronomical units, taken by Cassini [600 x 600]


▲ obey the prophecy ▲
the door to wonderland


▲ obey the prophecy ▲
the door to wonderland


▲ obey the prophecy ▲
the door to wonderland


Vela Pulsar
The uppermost image is a Wide field Optical and X-ray composite image; like the next two, it’s from the Chandra photo album.
Digital photographic editing in the lower image is by Judy Schmidt [geckzilla]
Posted April 27, 2014 on Flickr.
North is up.

  • First, check out this animation of the northwest particle jet (at the Chandra X-ray Telescope web site). The jet is waving around like water does when it’s coming out of a hose whose nozzle is being jerked up and down. The pulsar may be wobbling as it spins.
  • The X-ray data is shown in magenta.  
  • The background was made from data from the Hubble Space Telescope, shown here in fiery red. 

 Vela Pulsar Factoids [source]

  • The Vela pulsar is a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed.
  • It’s about 1,000 light years from Earth;
  • It spans about 12 miles in diameter,
  • making over 11 complete rotations every second,
    faster than a helicopter rotor.
  • It spews out a jet of charged particles 0.7-light-years-long.
  • The particles are flung out along the pulsar’s rotation axis
    at 70% of the speed of light.

About the top image

The supernova that formed the Vela pulsar exploded over 10,000 years ago.

This optical image from the Anglo-Australian Observatory’s UK Schmidt telescope shows the enormous apparent size of the supernova remnant formed by the explosion. The full size of the remnant is about eight degrees across, or about 16 times the angular size of the moon.

The square near the center [a little lower and a bit to the right of center] shows the Chandra image with a larger field-of-view than used for the movie, with the Vela pulsar in the middle. [src]


The Music of Milkomeda

One day, in about 4 billion years, a cosmic galaxy collision is predict to occur between the Milky Way and Andromeda. What will the music sound like in 4 billion years? 


Impressive image of the NGC 6188 nebula, located some 4000 light-years away, in the southern constellation of Ara (the Altar). The red colour is due to emission from hydrogen, lit up by massive, recently-formed stars. The emission nebula is embedded in a dark, large molecular cloud.
Credit: ESO/J. Pérez


The Witch’s Head Nebula

A billowing cloud of stellar gas draws the silhouette of a witch’s scraggly face, probably scheming up some evil plan for a world light years from here.

NASA’s WISE instrument captured this boo-tiful birthplace of stars glowing with infrared light, and spooky science wizards here on Earth colored it to look a bit like the Wicked Witch of the West (the mean, warty, aquaphobic one from the 1939 film, not nice ol’ Elphaba Thropp). Which is odd, because Orion, where the Witch’s Nebula resides, rises in the east this time of year.

This is another example of astronomical pareidolia, in which our pattern-addicted brains look for shapes where there is only randomness, like the constellations themselves, only a result of being a planet that sits just right here. The most famous example is the “face in Mars” (which is not a face at all, but an oddly shadowed plateau):

I mean, that’s all it is, right? Just pareidolia? And not a witch?