** What’s Up: August 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL
What are some skywatching highlights in August 2021? The best-known meteor shower of the year should be a good time this year on the peak night of Aug. 11, with no bright Moon to interfere. Jupiter and Saturn are at their best all month long. And on Aug. 22, the full moon will be a “seasonal blue moon.” Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up….
In August, a flock of star-studded figures soars overhead. Look for the Vega and Lyra constellations, which point to Epsilon Lyrae and the Ring Nebula. You can also spot three bright summer stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, which form the Summer Triangle. Keep watching for space-based views of these and other stars and nebulas.
About this Series “Tonight’s Sky” is a monthly video of constellations you can observe in the night sky. The series is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning. This is a recurring show, and you can find more episodes—and other astronomy videos—at [Tonight’s Sky].
A team of astronomers has released new observations of nearby galaxies that resemble colourful cosmic fireworks. The images, obtained with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), show different components of the galaxies in distinct colours, allowing astronomers to pinpoint the locations of young stars and the gas they warm up around them. By combining these new observations with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, the team is helping shed new light on what triggers gas to form stars.
Astronomers know that stars are born in clouds of gas, but what sets off star formation, and how galaxies as a whole play into it, remains a mystery. To understand this process, a team of researchers has observed various nearby galaxies with powerful telescopes on the ground and in space, scanning the different galactic regions involved in stellar births.
“For the first time we are resolving individual units of star formation over a wide range of locations and environments in a sample that well represents the different types of galaxies,”
says Eric Emsellem, an astronomer at ESO in Germany and lead of the VLT-based observations conducted as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) project.
“We can directly observe the gas that gives birth to stars, we see the young stars themselves, and we witness their evolution through various phases.”
Emsellem, who is also affiliated with the University of Lyon, France, and his team have now released their latest set of galactic scans, taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Atacama Desert in Chile. They used MUSE to trace newborn stars and the warm gas around them, which is illuminated and heated up by the stars and acts as a smoking gun of ongoing star formation.
The new MUSE images are now being combined with observations of the same galaxies taken with ALMA and released earlier this year. ALMA, which is also located in Chile, is especially well suited to mapping cold gas clouds — the parts of galaxies that provide the raw material out of which stars form.
By combining MUSE and ALMA images astronomers can examine the galactic regions where star formation is happening, compared to where it is expected to happen, so as to better understand what triggers, boosts or holds back the birth of new stars. The resulting images are stunning, offering a spectacularly colourful insight into stellar nurseries in our neighbouring galaxies.
“There are many mysteries we want to unravel,”
says Kathryn Kreckel from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and PHANGS team member.
“Are stars more often born in specific regions of their host galaxies — and, if so, why? And after stars are born how does their evolution influence the formation of new generations of stars?”
Astronomers will now be able to answer these questions thanks to the wealth of MUSE and ALMA data the PHANGS team have obtained. MUSE collects spectra — the “bar codes” astronomers scan to unveil the properties and nature of cosmic objects — at every single location within its field of view, thus providing much richer information than traditional instruments. For the PHANGS project, MUSE observed 30 000 nebulae of warm gas and collected about 15 million spectra of different galactic regions. The ALMA observations, on the other hand, allowed astronomers to map around 100 000 cold-gas regions across 90 nearby galaxies, producing an unprecedentedly sharp atlas of stellar nurseries in the close Universe.
In addition to ALMA and MUSE, the PHANGS project also features observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The various observatories were selected to allow the team to scan our galactic neighbours at different wavelengths (visible, near-infrared and radio), with each wavelength range unveiling distinct parts of the observed galaxies.
“Their combination allows us to probe the various stages of stellar birth — from the formation of the stellar nurseries to the onset of star formation itself and the final destruction of the nurseries by the newly born stars — in more detail than is possible with individual observations,”
says PHANGS team member Francesco Belfiore from INAF-Arcetri in Florence, Italy.
“PHANGS is the first time we have been able to assemble such a complete view, taking images sharp enough to see the individual clouds, stars, and nebulae that signify forming stars.”
The work carried out by the PHANGS project will be further honed by upcoming telescopes and instruments, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The data obtained in this way will lay further groundwork for observations with ESO’s future Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will start operating later this decade and will enable an even more detailed look at the structures of stellar nurseries.
“As amazing as PHANGS is, the resolution of the maps that we produce is just sufficient to identify and separate individual star-forming clouds, but not good enough to see what’s happening inside them in detail,”
pointed out Eva Schinnerer, a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and principal investigator of the PHANGS project, under which the new observations were conducted.
“New observational efforts by our team and others are pushing the boundary in this direction, so we have decades of exciting discoveries ahead of us.”
[ See also these interactive comparisons of galaxy images with and without the ALMA radio array data:
Good news for space education and the promotion of space development and settlement. Nineteen space-related non-profits, including several space activist organizations, will each get $1M from Blue Origin.
Today, Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, announced 19 non-profit charitable organizations will each be offered a $1 million grant to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space. The funds are made possible by the recent auction for the first paid seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
Each of the organizations selected have demonstrated a commitment to promote the future of living and working in space to inspire the next generation to explore space careers. They enhance Club for the Future’s ability to reach students, teachers, and communities, and to engage them in the excitement and adventure of innovation and space exploration.
“Our recent auction for the first seat on New Shepard resulted in a donation of $28 million to our non-profit foundation, Club for the Future,” said Bob Smith, Blue Origin CEO. “This donation is enabling Club for the Future to rapidly expand its reach by partnering with 19 organizations to develop and inspire the next generation of space professionals. Our generation will build the road to space and these efforts will ensure the next generation is ready to go even further.”
The 19 organizations include:
AstraFemina is a collective of prominent leaders, including astronauts, academic professionals, and industry innovators, who have made a significant difference in the world by choosing diverse careers in STEM fields. Its mission is simple but powerful – to serve as role models to reinforce the message to today’s girls and young women that anything is possible and help bridge the gap between believing and achieving.
The AIAA Foundation, which is connected to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), inspires and supports the next generation of aerospace professionals. From classroom to career, the AIAA Foundation enables innovative K-12 and university programming, including STEM classroom grants, scholarships, conferences, and hands-on competitions.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) provides merit-based scholarships for college students majoring in STEM programs at more than 44 partner universities. Founded by the Mercury astronauts, ASF selects more than 50 Astronaut Scholars each year. They also provide programs focused on career development skills and virtual family activities to inspire K-12 students to positively change and innovate our future.
The Brooke Owens Fellowship offers paid internships and mentorship for exceptional undergrad women and gender minorities in aerospace. Its spin-off, the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship, provides extraordinary Black students with their first work experience in the aerospace industry, personalized mentorship and a cohort of similarly driven and talented young Black people pursuing aerospace careers.
Challenger Center, created by the families of Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51L crew, serves more than 250,000 K-12 students each year with experiential, hands-on education programs. The 40 Challenger Learning Centers deliver in-classroom and virtual simulation-based programs to bring STEM subjects to life. Students role-play real world STEM careers and cultivate teamwork, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Higher Orbits delivers an experiential learning lab for secondary school students across the United States. It focuses on the multi-faceted worlds of space exploration, research and spaceflight in order to launch the next generation our world desires. The organization facilitates activities from the novice to advanced level, drawing from the Science Futures by Design curriculum at Higher Orbits, to promote STEAM and prepare students for academic and career success.
International Astronautical Federation (IAF) is the leading space advocacy body, including all leading space agencies, numerous companies, research institutions, universities, societies, associations, institutes and museums worldwide. It’s Emerging Space Leaders Grant Program (ESL), enables students and young professionals to participate in the International Astronautical Congress, the United Nations/IAF Workshop and Space Generations Congress.
The National Space Society (NSS) is dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization that provides a citizen’s voice on space exploration, development, and settlement. Its mission is to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity.
SciArt Exchange uses a science-integrated-with-art approach to help change the world through science and technology education, collaboration and innovation. It supports, prepares and convenes people of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations to discuss, and potentially solve, space, science, and technology challenges by offering multi-disciplinary art contests, events, training, consulting, and community services.
Space Camp, located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, provides a one-of-a-kind experience for campers of all ages from every state and more than 70 countries. Its curriculum teaches STEM principles, emphasizing leadership, teamwork, fun and creativity. Program instruction is aligned to national science and math standards and framed with an immersive experience amidst a backdrop of humankind’s greatest technological achievements in space hardware.
Space Center Houston is dedicated to inspiring all generations through the wonders of space exploration. It is a leading science and space exploration learning center, the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate and Certified Autism Center. Space Center Houston empowers teachers and students with access to immersive learning experiences where they solve real-world challenges of human space exploration.
The Space For Art Foundation works with children in hospitals and refugee centers around the world on its mission to unite a planetary community of children through the wonder of space exploration and the healing power of art. Through large-scale space-themed art projects, the Foundation aims to highlight the connection between personal and planetary health and raise awareness of our role as crewmates here on Spaceship Earth.
Space For Humanity is building a foundation for an inclusive future in space by organizing the planet’s first Sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program, where leaders from any walk of life can apply for an opportunity to go to space. Through its citizen spaceflight program, leadership training, and collaborative efforts to educate the public, Space for Humanity is setting the stage to create a better world, both here on Earth and throughout the cosmos.
Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), in support of the United Nations Program on Space Applications, is a global non-governmental organization and network which aims to focus on pragmatic space policy advice to policy makers based on the interests of students and young professionals interested in space from around the world. The SGAC network of members, volunteers and alumni has 16,000 members from more than 165 countries.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) is an international student-led organization whose purpose is to promote space exploration and development through educational and engineering projects. SEDS is fostering the development of future leaders and contributors in the expanding space industry through individual chapters, enabling students to be connected and create networks with each other.
Teachers in Space is an organization which stimulates student interest in STEM by providing teachers with extraordinary space science experiences and industry connections. As a facilitator of personal and hands-on professional development workshops for STEM teachers, it sparks a transfer of passion that prepares and encourages students to pursue further education and careers in the emerging space industry.
The Mars Society is an international organization devoted to furthering the exploration and settlement of Mars by both public and private means. Its activities include broad public outreach to spread its vision, STEM programs, student engineering design and Mars rover competitions, conferences, publications, and scientific projects including Mars Analog Research Stations to learn how we might best live, work, and explore on the Red Planet.
The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. Led by CEO Bill Nye and powered by space enthusiasts around the globe, the Society works to advance space science and exploration through education, innovation, advocacy, and global collaboration. Its mission is to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration.
The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization comprised of a diverse, multinational array of space activists, scientists, engineers, media, political professionals, entrepreneurs, and passionate citizens focused on unleashing the power of free enterprise and leading a united humanity permanently into the Solar System. Through conferences, speakers, policy papers, awards and prizes, they are actively advancing the cause of “New Space.”
Club for the Future will use the remaining funds from the auction to continue its work on its space-focused curriculum and Postcards to Space program. For more information about Club for the Future, visit ClubforFuture.org.
Blue Origin’s First Human Flight will take place on July 20. For more details about the mission and how to watch the launch live, follow @BlueOrigin on Twitter or sign up for updates at BlueOrigin.com.
** What’s Up: July 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL
What are some skywatching highlights in July 2021? Venus blazes as the “Evening Star” following the sunset, with a much fainter planet Mars nearby. Catch their super close pairing on July 12. Plus, if you can find your way to dark skies, this is the best time of year to enjoy the magic of the Milky Way.
In July, find the Scorpius constellation to identify the reddish supergiant Antares, which will lead you to discover a trio of globular star clusters. Keep watching for space-based views of these densely packed, spherical collections of ancient stars, as well as three nebulas: the Swan Nebula, the Lagoon Nebula, and the Trifid Nebula.
About this Series “Tonight’s Sky” is a monthly video of constellations you can observe in the night sky. The series is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning. This is a recurring show, and you can find more episodes—and other astronomy videos—at https://hubblesite.org/resource-galle….
This month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast tells you “what’s up” in the evening sky. No experience or equipment is necessary — just download or stream the audio file and take it with you outside. With the last-quarter Moon on July 1st and new Moon on the 9th, your darkest evenings for stargazing are during the first half of the month.
Two of the Sun’s inner planets are doing a little dance over in the west after sunset this month. Look just to the upper left of the sunset point for Venus. This planet is quite bright, but its dazzle is diminished somewhat due to the twilight around it. In early July, a second and much dimmer planet is lurking just to the upper left of Venus. That’s Mars, just 1% as bright as Venus.
[ Update: What’s Up: June 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL
What are some skywatching highlights in June 2021? Catch Saturn and Jupiter in the morning, and the constellation Scorpius after dark! Plus skywatchers in the Northeast U.S., Eastern Canada, and Northern Europe can see a partial solar eclipse on June 10th. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up….
Though the nights are shorter in June, they are filled with fine sights. Look for the Hercules constellation, which will lead you to a globular star cluster with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars. You can also spot Draco the dragon, which will point you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Keep watching for space-based views of globular star clusters and the nebula.