Bubble Nebula
September 20, 2009 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Reprocess of Bubble Nebula Data. NGC 7635, also called the Bubble Nebula, is an emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. It's created by stellar winds from a superhot star 40 times the size of our sun which whip the cloud of gas around the star into a bubble. [Via]
posted by homunculus (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

There was a moment in my late teens when I started looking at old pictures and actually seeing the people in them, when I recognized them as depicting individual human beings with distinct personalities and not just as some generic "old time stuff." Something about the reboot of the Hubble has done the same thing for me with "colorful space pictures." The butterfly nebula photo blew me away for its palpable energy. Unlike previous astronomy porn, the motion and tension in the photo is evident and, once your mind starts to wrap itself around the colossal scale of the thing, overwhelming.

Is this just a function of the new capabilities of the Hubble? Is there some magic resolution that's been achieved and now the photos seem more three dimensional and vivid? Or is NASA doing a better job of presenting imagery to the public? Either way, both of these are mind-bogglingly amazing.
posted by felix betachat at 11:59 AM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fantastic collection of pictures
posted by Cranberry at 12:10 PM on September 20, 2009

What I think is wonderful is the way that digital cameras and digital image processing have opened things up for amateur astronomers. A lot of folks out there who own 8" or 12" reflectors are suddenly doing work which would have made professional astronomers green with envy 30 years ago.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:17 PM on September 20, 2009

homunculus... I never thought that a nebula could bring one to tears... but my god... that image just rips into the core of me.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2009

my God . . . it's full of stars.

This is gorgeous. (I almost wanted to say "gmh" afterward)
posted by exlotuseater at 12:38 PM on September 20, 2009

New desktop!
posted by vibrotronica at 2:42 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

That shit is beautiful.

What is it again?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:56 PM on September 20, 2009

What I love is that these seem to show many of the same patterns — eddies, currents, clouds, streams — as you see all around us at earth scale. Our understanding of macro physics appears to be pretty good. It seems to scale up really well.

Or I'm making a fool of myself by revealing a complete lack of knowledge about astrophysics. Maybe it only looks like things I think I recognize, when these features are actually something completely surreal or exceptional or something.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:13 PM on September 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Gorgeous. Now for a rather dumb question: would the human eye ever be able to see such a thing unaided? I mean in a Star Trek future with warp drive and everything, so you could get up close. Those photographs have some pretty long exposure times, but could you get close enough for these nebulas to be bright enough to see? Or would you have to get so close that you'd be practically inside it and couldn't really see the whole thing properly?

Plus I notice each image used different exposure times for the various channels - are the astronomers trying to build a realistic approximation of naked-eye appearance using CCDs that respond differently from retinas, or are they shamelessly maximizing the beauty of their breathtaking photos? Couldn't really blame 'em, but it would be neat to think that the galaxy really is so beautiful.
posted by Quietgal at 6:02 PM on September 20, 2009

Quietgal: The long exposures are a part of why we'd never be able to see things unaided, but the other problem is in exactly what channels they use. The green channel, for instance, is coming from the light emitted by a particular ion of oxygen, the red channel is coming from a particular hydrogen emission, etc. Basically, they overlay the three channels onto one another and assign them particular colors to shamelessly maximize beauty.

In this particular case, the colors they use actually match up pretty well to the colors that we'd see, but not perfectly. Of course, this also leaves out possible other colors that we would actually see. A lot of astronomical images actually are not even taken in the visible light spectrum, so there's actually no way that we could ever see a lot of the features of the pictures we see with our eyes. Here's a page that shows the difference between what we could see of a distant galaxy in visible light versus what we can see with ultraviolet light, for instance.
posted by Schismatic at 6:20 PM on September 20, 2009

Couldn't really blame 'em, but it would be neat to think that the galaxy really is so beautiful.

But it is so beautiful. The limitations of your human vision are irrelevant to the beauty of the formations. Maybe hummingbirds can see it, maybe bees can see it, maybe it's visible only to the xray creatures of planet zephalon, maybe it's visible to one or more of those things only through the use of wavelength shifts. In all cases, it's the real shit: actual photons emanating or reflecting from such structures. They're real.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:39 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Schismatic, thanks. I daydream about moving to a planet in the right sort of neighborhood, and being able to look up at night and see a fabulous nebula glowing in the sky. That "sorta true-color" pic of the Pillars of Creation gives me hope! Where's my warp drive, dammit?

Sigh ... I've never even seen an aurora borealis.
posted by Quietgal at 6:45 PM on September 20, 2009

Obviously a (slightly asymmetrical) Dyson sphere.
posted by The Tensor at 9:24 PM on September 20, 2009

five fresh fish...I was thinking exactly the same thing. So much about these photos brings to mind things at human scale that it has always been hard for me to get my mind around the scale of these things.

Me: "Oh cool...a bubble. That contains A STAR. And stretches further than the distance from our Sun to our nearest stellar neighbour."

posted by salishsea at 9:24 PM on September 20, 2009

posted by OmieWise at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2009

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