With engineers working to restore the Hubble Space Telescope to normal operation after a computer glitch, here’s a reminder of what the observatory has been bringing back to Earth over the past three decades: riveting, razor-sharp views of deep space targets. This image of NGC 330, an open star cluster in the Small Magellanic Cloud, was captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. It incorporates data from two studies, one focused on stellar evolution and the other on how large stars can become before exploding as supernovae. Discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop, NGC 330 is about 180,000 light years from Earth in the southern constellation Tucana.
At a ceremony held today in Germany, the European Southern Observatory and the ACe Consortium signed the largest contract ever in ground-based astronomy for key components of the 39-metre aperture European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The 85-metre-diameter, 5000 tonne dome and telescope structure will take telescope engineering into new territory.
This glorious spiral galaxy is known as NGC 24, measures some 40,000 light-years across and lies about 25 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor. However, there may be more to this picture than first meets the eye: 80 percent of NGC 24’s mass is thought to be held within an invisible dark matter halo.
Astrophysicists have taken a major step forward in understanding how supermassive black holes formed. Using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes, Italian researchers have found the best evidence to date that the direct collapse of a gas cloud produced supermassive black holes in the early universe.