This mosaic shows part of the Noctis Labyrinthus region, the ‘Labyrinth of the Night’, on Mars. It was composed by Bill Dunford using scenes available in the Mars Express image archive, HRSCview.
This image was featured as space science image of the week on 25 March 2013.
The object in this image is Jonckheere 900 or J 900, a planetary nebula — glowing shells of ionised gas pushed out by a dying star. Discovered in the early 1900s by astronomer Robert Jonckheere, the dusty nebula is small but fairly bright, with a relatively evenly spread central region surrounded by soft wispy edges.
Despite the clarity of this Hubble image, the two objects in the picture above can be confusing for observers. J 900’s nearby companion, a faint star in the constellation of Gemini, often causes problems for observers because it is so close to the nebula — when seeing conditions are bad, this star seems to merge into J 900, giving it an elongated appearance. Hubble’s position above the Earth’s atmosphere means that this is not an issue for the space telescope.
Astronomers have also mistakenly reported observations of a double star in place of these two objects, as the planetary nebula is quite small and compact.
J 900’s central star is only just visible in this image, and is very faint — fainter than the nebula’s neighbour. The nebula appears to display a bipolar structure, where there are two distinct lobes of material emanating from its centre, enclosed by a bright oval disc.
A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Josh Barrington.
The internal structure of a human cell in simulated gravity taken on the International Space Station. Pictured here is a monocyte immune cell that plays an integral role in protecting our bodies from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
To record this image, immune cells were placed on gold-coated slides inside ESA’s Kubik incubator. As the cells grew they removed the gold, allowing researchers on Earth to measure their movements in space. Antibodies that light up under a fluorescence microscope were added to reveal colours and identify specific proteins.
Aurora Australis over Concordia research station in Antarctica.
The French–Italian Concordia station's programme of research includes glaciology, human biology and the atmosphere. ESA uses the base to prepare for future long-duration missions beyond Earth. During the winter, Concordia is under almost total darkness, with an average temperature of –51°C and a record low of –85°C. It is an ideal place to study the effects on small, multicultural teams isolated for long periods in an extreme, hostile environment.
Auroras occur frequently over both the North and South polar regions, but are often difficult to see from populated areas
ESA-sponsored medical doctor Alex Salam at Concordia station recalls his experience: "A privilege to live in the coldest most remote place on the face of the Earth".
The wonderful Antarctic views make up for living in sub-zero conditions without sunlight for four months – cut off from all outside help.
ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation.
This three-colour image of the W3 giant molecular cloud combines Herschel bands at 70 μm (blue), 160 μm (green) and 250 μm (red). The image spans about 2 x 2 degrees. North is up and east is to the left.
W3 is an enormous stellar nursery about 6200 light-years away in the Perseus Arm, one of the Milky Way galaxy’s main spiral arms, that hosts both low- and high-mass star formation. In this image, the low-mass protostars are seen as tiny yellow dots embedded in cool red filaments, while the highest-mass stars – with greater than eight times the mass of our Sun – emit intense radiation, heating up the gas and dust around them and appearing here in blue. W3 Main and W3 (OH) contain the most recent high-mass star formation.
Week In Images
25-29 March 2013