Don Robertson

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The SWAP instrument on board ESA's Proba-2 spacecraft captured this image of the sun on July 30, 2013. SWAP stands for “Sun Watcher using Active Pixel System detector and Image Processing."

How Do Black Holes Get Super Massive?

Since their discovery, supermassive black holes – the giants lurking in the center of every galaxy – have been mysterious in origin. Astronomers …

APOD: Hoag's Object: A Strange Ring Galaxy (2013 Jul 28) Image Credit: Credit: R. Lucas (STScI/AURA), Hubble Heritage Team, NASA Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? This question came to light in 1950 when astronomer Art Hoag chanced upon this unusual extragalactic object. On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely dark. How Hoag's Object formed remains unknown, although similar objects have now been identified and collectively labeled as a form of ring galaxy. Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished. The above photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in July 2001 revealed unprecedented details of Hoag's Object. More recent observations in radio waves indicate that Hoag's Object has not accreted a smaller galaxy in the past billion years. Hoag's Object spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 600 million light years away toward the constellation of the Snake (Serpens). Coincidentally, visible in the gap (at about one o'clock) is yet another ring galaxy that likely lies far in the distance. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: M74: The Perfect Spiral (2013 Aug 11) Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA)- ESA / Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: R. Chandar (Univ. Toledo) and J. Miller (Univ. Michigan) Explanation: If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 32 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view. Classified as an Sc galaxy, the grand design of M74's graceful spiral arms are traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes. Constructed from image data recorded in 2003 and 2005, this sharp composite is from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Spanning about 30,000 light-years across the face of M74, it includes exposures recording emission from hydrogen atoms, highlighting the reddish glow of the galaxy's large star-forming regions. Recently, many astronomers are tracking a bright supernova that has been seen in M74. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD