March 2009

Quadruple Saturn Moon Transit Snapped by Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope group released an image last week that shows four of Saturn's moons in transit across the face, and rings, of Saturn. This is a fairly rare event, occurring only every fifteen years. This particular image was taken on February 24, 2009. Because the orbits of the larger Saturnian satellites are in the ring plane, or edge-on, it's an exceedingly spectacular event, and the Hubble team succeeded wildly in capturing it for us. </p.

I've linked to a small image of the moons in transit across the face of Saturn in this post; you can click it for a more detailed view, with annotations. You'll see, moving from the top, Saturn's largest moon, Titan (larger even than Mercury), looking faintly orange in color because Titan's nitrogen-rich atmosphere is tinted by the side effects of sunlight on methane and nitrogen.

Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra on M 101

As part of the celebration in honor of the International Year of Astronomy, and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's discoveries, NASA has released special images made at each of its associated observatories: the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Each observatory has turned its scopes, using a variety of equipment and wave lengths, to the spiral galaxy known as Messier 101, or M 101. Hubble provided an optical view, Spitzer an infrared, and Chandra an X-ray view. The data from each observatory was combined to create a single image, linked above.

M 101 is a spiral galaxy, larger but otherwise much like our own milky way, and located in the constellation Ursa Major. M 101's nickname is "the Pinwheel Galaxy," because, well, the gas clouds formed around the stars make it look very like a pinwheel.