ESO’s Hidden Treasures Brought To Light
ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition attracted nearly 100 entries, and ESO is delighted to announce the winners. Hidden Treasures gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search ESO’s vast archives of astronomical data for a well-hidden cosmic gem. Astronomy enthusiast Igor Chekalin from Russia won the first prize in this difficult but rewarding challenge — the trip of a lifetime to ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal, Chile.
Above, Igor’s image: M78 nebula in Orion.
Todays Astronomy Picture of the Day
The Cosmic Web of the Tarantula Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Marcelo Salemme
Dying Star Cocooned within its own Gases
This Hubble image shows the tiny planetary nebula NGC 6886. These celestial objects signal the final death throes of mid-sized stars; when such a star exhausts its supply of hydrogen fuel, the outer layers begin to expand and cool, which creates an envelope of gas and dust that shrouds the dying star.
However, the star doesn’t go down without a fight, finding alternative ways to prevent it from collapsing under its own gravity and emerging as a white dwarf. In the process, the star’s surface temperature increases and it is eventually hot enough to emit strong ultraviolet radiation and make the cocoon of gas glow as a stunning planetary nebula.
Stellar death isn’t quick and painless: the planetary nebula stage typically lasts several tens of thousands of years. By studying the elements that are present in the nebula today, astronomers can determine the original chemical make-up of the star. Studies suggest that the star belonging to NGC 6886 may have originally been similar to the Sun, containing similar quantities of carbon, nitrogen and neon, although heavier elements, such as sulphur, were less plentiful.
• Source: spacetelescope.org