NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (February 2, 2013)
"This infrared view from the Herschel Space Observatory explores the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. Only 2.5 million light-years distant, the famous island universe is also known to astronomers as M31. Andromeda spans over 200,000 light-years making it more than twice the size of the Milky Way. Shown in false color, the image data reveal the cool dust lanes and clouds that still shine in the infrared but are otherwise dark and opaque at visual wavelengths. Red hues near the galaxy's outskirts represent the glow of dust heated by starlight to a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. Blue colors correspond to hotter dust warmed by stars in the more crowded central core. Also a tracer of molecular gas, the dust highlights Andromeda's prodigious reservoir of raw material for future star formation."
Mark A. Holmes
"This esthetic close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis, interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The small, arcing, graceful structure just above and left of center is LL Ori's cosmic bow shock, measuring about half a light-year across. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the upper left corner of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. The beautiful picture is part of a large mosaic view of the complex stellar nursery in Orion, filled with a myriad of fluid shapes associated with star formation."
Mark A. Holmes
"The spiral arms of bright galaxy M106 sprawl through this remarkable multiframe portrait, composed of data from ground- and space-based telescopes. Also known as NGC 4258, M106 can be found toward the northern constellation Canes Venatici. The well-measured distance to M106 is 23.5 million light-years, making this cosmic scene about 80,000 light-years across. Typical in grand spiral galaxies, dark dust lanes, youthful blue star clusters, and pinkish star forming regions trace spiral arms that converge on the bright nucleus of older yellowish stars. But this detailed composite reveals hints of two anomalous arms that don't align with the more familiar tracers. Seen here in red hues, sweeping filaments of glowing hydrogen gas seem to rise from the central region of M106, evidence of energetic jets of material blasting into the galaxy's disk. The jets are likely powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole."
Mark A. Holmes