Happy Birthday, Hubble: Seeing the Universe in a New Light

If you are at all interested in astronomy, chances are you’ve already heard that the Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. What some people may not know is that Hubble is one of four siblings, so to speak. Back in the 1980s, NASA commissioned the “Great Observatories,” each designed and built to study different wavelengths of light.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum. NASA’s Great Observatories (Compton, Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer) and the electromagnetic thermometer scale. (Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

The four Great Observatories, in order of their launches that took place between 1990 and 2003, are Hubble, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

A photo of the Hubble Space Telescope, doing its job in space. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990. Hubble has four main scientific instruments that allow it to observe not only in visible light but also near ultraviolet and near infrared. Hubble helped determine how old our Universe is, what quasars are, and also helped discover “dark energy.”

The space shuttle crew took a photo of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory as the satellite was deployed, with Earth visible beneath it. Credit: NASA/MSFC

In 1991, NASA launched a satellite into space carrying the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO). The goal of Compton was to study gamma rays from objects far out into space. Gamma ray telescopes can study incredibly exotic objects such as blazars, magnetars, cosmic rays, and dark matter. Compton operated in space until when NASA intentionally sent it into the Earth’s ocean in 2000.

An artist’s illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory in space. Credit: NGST

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. Because X-rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, Chandra must orbit above it, up to an altitude of 139,000 km (86,500 mi) in space. Chandra was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999 and continues to be in excellent health and deliver incredible science over a decade and half later.

An artist’s illustration of the Spitzer Space Telescope in orbit. Credit: NASA

The last of the Great Observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope, was launched into orbit in 2003. Spitzer is designed to detect infrared light, which is primarily radiation from heat. This gives Spitzer the ability to study objects like brown dwarfs (failed stars), extrasolar planets, giant clouds of gas and dust, and organic molecules that may hold the key to life in the Universe.

Over the years, astronomers have used often used data from these telescopes together. Not only does this reap incredible scientific rewards, the combined datasets from the different observatories often make spectacular images that help all viewers get a more complete picture of our fascinating Universe. (Astronomers call images with different types of light “multiwavelength” images because each type of light encompasses different sets of wavelengths.) We think this may be a perfect example of Aristotle’s old adage that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

With that, we’ve selected some of our favorite multiwavelength images with Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer data (and listed the colors that each image is shown in). Each type of light brings a new piece of the puzzle in the quest to understand the cosmos we live in. We hope there will be many more years to see our Universe in a whole new light.

NGC 6388 is a globular cluster about 35,000 light years from Earth. In this image, the Hubble data is colored in red, green and blue, with X-ray data from Chandra in pink.

MACS J0416.1-2403 is a galaxy cluster about 4.29 billion light years from Earth. In the image, Hubble data is colored red, green and blue, with a lensing map in blue, and the Chandra X-ray data is colored pink.

NGC 602 is a cluster of young stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the closest galaxies to our Milky Way. The Hubble image is shown in red, green and blue with Chandra information colored purple and Spitzer colored red.

NGC 2392 is a star like our Sun that is in the end phase of its life, situated about 4,200 light years from Earth. The Hubble optical data is shown in red, green and blue with the Chandra X-ray data in pink.

NGC 922 is a ring galaxy about 157 million light years from Earth. In this image, Hubble information is colored red, green and blue with Chandra X-ray information in red.

NGC 6543 (also known as the Cat’s Eye) is a planetary nebulas located less than 5.000 light years from Earth. The Hubble optical image is shown in red, green and blue, with the Chandra X-ray image overlaid in purple.

VV 340 is a pair of galaxies located about 450 million light years from Earth. The Hubble image has been colored red, green and blue, and the Chandra X-ray image is depicted in purple.

Arp 147 is a galaxy about 430 million light years from Earth. In this image, the Hubble data has been colored red, green and blue, and the Chandra X-ray data has been colored magenta.

SNR 0509-67.5 is a supernova remnant in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which lies about 160,000 light years from Earth. The Hubble image is depicted in orange, red and violet with the Chandra X-ray image overlaid in green and blue.

NGC 6240 is a galaxy about 330 million light years from Earth. Hubble data is shown in red, green and blue and is overlaid with Chandra data depicted in orange and cyan.

E0102, officially known as 1E0102.2-7219, is a supernova remnant in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Hubble’s image in red, green and blue has been overlaid with Chandra’s image in blue, cyan and orange.

MACSJ0717.5+3745 is one of the most complex galaxy clusters known, located about 5.4 billion light years from Earth. The Hubble data is colored in cyan and yellow, with the Chandra data in blue and violet.

The Orion Nebula is a rich cluster of young stars about 1,500 light years from Earth. Hubble’s image is shown in red and purple, and Chandra’s X-ray image is shown in blue, yellow and orange.

1E 0657-56 (also known as the Bullet Cluster) is the site of a collision between two large galaxy clusters about 3.4 billion light years from Earth. Hubble data is shown in white and orange with the lensing map in blue, and Chandra data is shown in pink.

N132D is a supernova remnant in the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light years from Earth. Hubble’s image is colored in pink and purple with Chandra’s image in blue.

Image Credits: NASA

This post was co-authored by Kimberly Arcand and Megan Watzke.

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Dog That Looks Like Steve Buscemi Highlights The Problem With Famous Pets

A Los Angeles rescue dog has skyrocketed to Internet fame due to what some claim is a resemblance to actor Steve Buscemi.

Jezebel writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper was the first to thrust the canine, a young female beagle and pug mix named Ari, into the national spotlight. Beth Lavigne, the director of Go Dog Safe Paws, the rescue group caring for Ari, is grateful for the attention, but says it’s been a mixed blessing.

steve buscemi
Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws.

Go Dog Safe Paws is a nonprofit rescue group that pulls animals in need out of high-kill shelters. Lavigne told The Huffington Post that the group took Ari — who workers estimate is around 9 months old — because it feared her underbite might prevent her from getting quickly adopted at the Los Angeles County shelter.

Ari spends her nights with various Go Dog Safe Paws volunteers, and during the day she stays at a doggie day care also operated by Lavigne. Vargas-Cooper, who met Ari because her dog attends that same day care, wanted to bring attention to the adorable pup’s need for a home.

Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws.

After the Jezebel article was published Monday, pictures of Ari quickly began popping up on sites from all over the world.

Lavigne says that there are both upsides and downsides to Ari’s popularity. On one hand, she’s happy that the playful, friendly dog is finally getting the attention she deserves. Lavigne told HuffPost that before the Jezebel article, Ari was by far the least-viewed dog on Go Dog Safe Paws’ adoption site.

“I thought, what is wrong with people?” Lavigne said. “She’s, like, the cutest dog I’ve ever seen.”

Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws.

On the other hand, Lavigne says she’s now “inundated” with calls and emails from people who want to adopt Ari, but who are off the table based on their location. She stressed that she will only consider Los Angeles-area homes for Ari — and the rest of Go Dog Safe Paw’s dogs — because the group always does a home check before letting any of its animals get adopted.

Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws.

Lavigne urges those who are interested in Ari, but live too far away to adopt her, consider shelter animals in their area. She said people often become set on adopting a well-known animal, while neglecting to consider the many other animals in need nationwide.

“There are hundreds of thousands of dogs just like Ari that need homes,” she said.

Sherry Silk, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, spoke with HuffPost about a similar issue in January. When Bart, the “zombie cat” who reportedly “rose from the grave” after a car accident, made national news, Silk’s shelter was overwhelmed with calls from people around the country expressing interest in adopting Bart. Silk told HuffPost that she urged many of the interested parties to adopt another shelter cat in Bart’s honor.

Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws.

Lavigne also noted that some people have gotten the wrong impression, and mistakenly believe Ari is living a sad and lonely life. While Lavigne does want Ari to find her “forever home,” she made it clear that Ari’s current situation is a happy one, with lots of social time with humans and other dogs.

“She is happy and loved and cared for and living the life,” Lavigne said. “She is very ‘puppy’, she loves to play, she loves to wrestle and romp with other dogs. She absolutely loves the ball.”

For the record, Lavigne said she never noticed any similarity between Ari and the award-winning Buscemi prior to the Jezebel story. In fact, Go Dog Safe Paws made a fake movie poster highlighting the dog’s resemblance to another Internet-famous animal.

“I think she looks more like Grumpy Cat, to be honest,” Lavigne said.

Photo: Go Dog Safe Paws via Facebook

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Lake Mead On Track For Record Low Water Level Amid Drought

By Victoria Cavaliere

April 24 (Reuters) – Nevada’s Lake Mead, the largest capacity reservoir in the United States, is on track to drop to its lowest water level in recorded history on Sunday as its source, the Colorado River, suffers from 14 years of severe drought, experts said on Friday.

The 79-year-old reservoir, formed by the building of the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, was expected to dip below 1,080 feet on Sunday, lower than a previous record of 1,080.19 feet last August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Predictions show that on May 31, the reservoir will have dipped again to 1,075 feet, well below its record high levels of around 1,206 feet in the 1980s, according to Bureau of Reclamation data.

Lake Mead supplies water to agriculture and about 40 million people in Nevada, Arizona, Southern California, and northern Mexico.

The water source and several other man-made reservoirs springing from the 1,450-mile (2,230-km) Colorado River, have dropped to as low as 45 percent of their capacity as the river suffers a 14th straight year of crippling drought.

About 96 percent of the water in Lake Mead is from melted snow that falls in “upper basin” states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming, officials said.

Over the past 14 years, snowfall has dropped in the Rocky Mountains, leading to a drop in snow pack runoff that feeds the river, according to Bureau of Reclamation statistics. In 2013, runoff was at 47 percent of normal.

The lake’s levels are nearing a critical trigger where federal officials will have to start rationing water deliveries to Nevada, Arizona and parts of California. States in the region have enacted action plans to lessen greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

A study carried out by the Bureau of Reclamation and the seven states in the Colorado river basin concluded that the drought was not likely to end soon, and that large metropolitan cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix grew rapidly during a rare wetter period for the river.

On average, the Colorado River Basin temperature is projected to increase by five to six F degrees during the 21st century, the report said. Mean annual runoff is projected to decrease by 8.5 percent by 2050. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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