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We are Not Alone

Other Galaxys


 Dust makes this cosmic eye look red. The eerie Spitzer Space Telescope image shows infrared radiation from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white  dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula,  representing the final stages in the evolution of a sun-like star.

But the  Spitzer data show the nebula's central star itself is immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris  disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many  thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions  in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system's Kuiper Belt  or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the  comet-like bodies have otherwise survived even the dramatic late stages of the star's evolution.


(SSC/Caltech) In visible light, the whole thing looks like an eagle. The region was captured recently in unprecedented detail in infrared light by the robotic orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope (SSC). Shown above, the infrared image allows observers to peer through normally opaque dust  and so better capture the full complexity of the Eagle Nebula star forming region. In particular, the three famous pillars near the image center are  seen bathed in dust likely warmed by a supernova explosion. The warm dust is digitally assigned the false color of red. Also visible, near the  bottom of the image, is ten light-year long pillar sometimes dubbed the Fairy of Eagle Nebula. The greater Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16,lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Serpens.

 The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier's famous list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, expanding debris from the death explosion of a massive star. This intriguing false-color image combines data from space-based observatories, Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer, to explore thedebris cloud in x-rays (blue-purple), optical (green), and infrared (red) light.One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is the bright spot near picture center. Like a cosmic dynamo, this collapsed remnant of the stellar core powers the Crab's emission across the electromagnetic spectrum.Spanning about 12 light-years, the Crab Nebula is 6,500 light-years awayin the constellation Taurus.

  Two galaxies are squaring off in Corvus and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, however, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small amount of that space. During the slow, hundred million year collision, however, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide.In the above clash of the titans, dark dust pillars mark massive molecularclouds are being compressed during the galactic encounter, causing the rapid birth of millions of stars, some of which are gravitationally bound together in massive star clusters.

 In the center of star-forming region 30 Doradus lies a huge cluster of the largest, hottest, most massive stars known. These stars,known as the star cluster R136, and part of the surrounding nebula are captured here in this gorgeous visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Gas and dust clouds in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, have been sculpted into elongated shapes by powerful winds and ultraviolet radiation from these hot cluster stars. The 30 Doradus Nebula lies within a neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, located a mere 170,000 light-years away.

Ice planet & two moonsRed skyGreen sky with lifeforms

  This stunning mosiac of the sky around bright stars Antares(Alpha Scorpii) and Rho Ophiuchi reveals spectacular colors in a cosmic starscape. Near the top, Rho Ophiuchi and nearby stars are immersed in blue reflection nebulae - dust clouds that shine primarily by reflected starlight. Cool supergiant star Antares lower left is itself shedding the material that reflects the evolved star's yellowish hue. Characteristic of star forming regions, the telltale red emission from hydrogen gas also permeates the view along with dark, obscuring dust clouds seen in silhouette against the background stars and brighter nebulosities. About 500 light-years away, the Rho  Ophiuchi star clouds, are well in front of the nearby  The wide view spans about 6 degrees on the sky.




 This stunning group of galaxies is far, far away - about 450 million light-years from planet Earth - cataloged as galaxy cluster Abell S0740.Dominated by the cluster's large central elliptical galaxy this sharp Hubble view takes in a remarkable assortment of galaxy shapes and sizes with only a few spiky foreground stars scattered through the field. The giant elliptical galaxy spans over 100,000 light years and contains about100 billion stars, comparable in size to our own spiral Milky Way. The Hubbledata reveal a wealth of detail in even these distant galaxies, including magnificent arms and dust lanes, star clusters,ring structures, and gravitational lensing arcs.


 Galaxies, like stars, frequently form groups. A group of galaxies is a system containing more than two galaxies but less than the tens or  hundreds typically found in a cluster of galaxies. A most notable example is the Local Group of Galaxies, which houses over 30 galaxies including ourMilky Way, Andromeda, and the Magellanic Clouds. Pictured above is nearby compact group Hickson 44.

This group is located about 60 million light-years away toward the constellation of Leo. Also known as the NGC 3190 Group, Hickson 44 contains several bright spiral galaxies and one bright elliptical galaxy on the upper left. The bright source on the upper right is a foreground star.Many galaxies in Hickson 44 and other compact groups are either slowly merging or gravitationally pulling each other apart.


 Supernova Remnant It's the blue wisp near the bottom that's the remnant of a tremendous recent supernova explosion. The large pink structure looming to the upper right is part of N76, a large star forming region in our neighboring Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) galaxy. The supernova remnant wisp, with full coordinate name 1E0102.2-7219 and frequently abbreviated as E0102, also lies in the SMC, about 50 light years away from N76.

The above image is a composite of several images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. E0102 is of research interest because we see it as it appeared only 2,000 years  after its explosion. Examination of E0102 therefore gives clues about how an enigmatic supernova works and what materials it dispersed into the surrounding interstellar medium.

 Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are the bright bluish stars from east to west left to right along the diagonal in this gorgeous cosmic vista. Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion, these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie about 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion's well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of  gas and dust adrift in this region have intriguing and some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula  near Alnitak at the lower left.

The famous Orion Nebula itself lies off the bottom of this star field that covers an impressive 4.4x3.5 degrees on the sky. The color picture was composited from digitized black and white photographic plates recorded through red and blue astronomical filters, with a computer synthesized green channel. The plates were taken using the Samuel Oschin Telescope, a wide-field survey instrument at Palomar Observatory, between 1987 and 1991.


  Echoes from the Edge. Variable star V838 Monocerotis lies near the edge of our Milky Way Galaxy, about 20,000 light-years from the Sun. Still,ever since a sudden outburst was detected in January 2002, this
enigmatic star has taken the center of an astronomical stage. As astronomers watch, light from the outburst echoes across pre-existing dust shells around V838 Mon, progressively illuminating ever more distant regions.

This stunning image of swirls of dust surrounding the star was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope in September of this year. The picture spans about 14 light-years. Astronomers expect the expanding echoes to continue to light up the dusty environs of V838 Mon for at least the rest of the current decade. Researchers have now found that V838 Mon is likely a young binary star, but the cause of its extraordinary outburst remains a mystery.


 What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be imbedded in a nebula with just such a shape. The above image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these  cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the sides. Supporting evidence for the cone hypothesis includes radial spokes  in the image that might run along the cone walls. Researchers speculate  that the cones viewed from another angle would appear similar to the  gigantic rings of supernova 1987A, possibly indicating that a star in MWC 922 might one day itself explode in a similar supernova.



      Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This impressively sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, as well as details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom.
    Proxima CentauriShattered moon in a green skyGreen twilight


      One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky and similarn size to the Milky Way, big, beautiful spiral M81 lies 11.8 million light-yearsaway in the northern constellation Ursa Major. This remarkably deep imageof the region reveals details in the bright  yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes.

    Above M81 lies a dwarf companion galaxy
     Holmberg IX, sporting a large, pinkish star-forming region near the top. While M81 and Holmberg IX are seen through a foreground of stars in our own Milky Way  galaxy, they are also seen here through a much fainter complex of dust clouds.  The relatively unexplored clouds are likely only some hundreds of light-years  distant and lie high above our galaxy's plane. Scattered through the image,  especially at the the right, the dust clouds reflect the combined light of the Milky Way's stars and have been dubbed integrated flux nebulae.
    MercuryMarsNeptune rising


Canadian Space Agency
China National Space Administration
ESA European Space Agency - 17 member states
Indian Space Research Organisation
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
RussianSpaceWeb - not the government-sponsored Russia Federal Space Agency or try Space Russia
NASA - United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A partial listing of
Space Agencies is available at Astroweb 


This page contains links to Maya astronomy, general information on the Maya, archeoastronomy links, and more.
The Maya Lunar Series, an original article by Robert Kihm
You may also want to read
Astra's lecture on The Maya Astronomy Page.

Dawn's Personal Links - Non-Astronomy updated 05/07/06

Australia and the South Pacific
Asia and Japan
South America

Sociedad Astronómica de España y América (SADEYA) - Spanish spoken here!
International Astronomy Meetings
International Dark-Sky Association

NASA Home Page

Night scene Planet 2 Barnard's Star
Neptune 1 Venus Neptune 1



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