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NTT snaps the Omega Nebula July 7, 2009

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This beautiful picture of the Omega Nebula (M17) was release today by ESO. It’s a three-colour composite image taken with the 3.6-m New Technology Telescope at ESO’s La Silla site in Chile. The nebula is a region of active star formation, one of the youngest and nearest to our solar system. A recent paper by Matthew Povich and collaborators reported over 90 candidate newborn stars in the region at varying stages of starbirth. Energetic radiation from hot young stars is exciting and lighting up the gas in the nebula.

The Povich paper contains a complete description of this hotbed of star formation at wavelengths from the radio to X-ray and is an excellent reference if you wold like to learn more.

Image credit: ESO

APOD: Strange light effects in Latvia January 12, 2009

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Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is really interesting: a picture taken in Latvia showing some strange light effects in the sky. The source of these weird pillary features is not clear, but the caption mentions something to do with ice crystals that are known to do some exotic looking things with light.

If you have a theory you can discuss it on this discussion board. Check out more pictures here.

Image credit: Aigar Truhin

A Double Astrono-Whammy of Exoplanet Finds November 13, 2008

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P. Kalas, UC Berkeley.

Image of the Fomalhaut debris disk with the image of Fomalhaut b inset. Image credit: P. Kalas, UC Berkeley.

National Research Council of Canada.

The HR8799 planetary system imaged with the Keck telescope. Image credit: National Research Council of Canada.

Since the detection of the first exoplanet in 1995, exoplanet astronomy has advanced in leaps and bounds. With well over 300 planets known to orbit stars other than the Sun, something special is needed for a discovery to hit the headlines. Today, two separate teams of astronomers are publishing results with a great big X-factor in the journal Science.

For the first time, astronomers have managed to produce images of planetary systems around other stars.

What about this, you ask? This image of the 2M1207 system, hailed as the first even exoplanet image on its release in 2005, is indeed an exoplanet image. But its host is a brown dwarf; a sub-stellar sized object that isn’t massive enough to burn fuel its core.