Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula This is a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming.

The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear, some of them never before seen in visible light, in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.

The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars.

The bright central region is the home of the four heftiest stars in the nebula. The stars are called the Trapezium because they are arranged in a trapezoid pattern.

Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. Located near the Trapezium stars are stars still young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These disks are called protoplanetary disks or "proplyds" and are too small to see clearly in this image. The disks are the building blocks of solar systems.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A warrior emerges from the dust

Detail of painted Roman Statue
The marble head of a warrior woman has emerged from Vesuvius' volcanic rock.

Buried by the eruption that nearly 2,000 years ago covered Pompeii and the nearby towns of Herculaneum and Stabiae with nine to 20 feet of hot ash and pumice, the painted marble bust was found in a collapsed escarpment near Herculaneum's Basilica.

Almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake 17 years before the eruption, the Basilica was rebuilt by proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus. It was unearthed in the 18th century, when the entire town of Herculaneum was discovered by chance during the construction of a well.

The statue has coloured hair and make up, and her pupils and eyelashes look just like they did when Herculaneum was buried by the eruption.