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Celestial Tour: Monsters in Deep Space

Celestial Tour: Monsters in Deep Space

No one expected to find hungry monsters in the ocean of space. But we have.
Celestial Tour: Monsters in Deep Space: Video Segments
Credits

Special thanks to: Roeland van der Marel and Gjis Verdoes Kleijn (STScI)

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Sonoma State University

  • Dragon, star, supernova, and AGN animations, and AGN illustration: Bryan Preston (STScI)
  • Map, character illustrations: Ann Feild (STScI)
  • Ground-based Milky Way starfield image: Axel Mellinger copyright 2000
  • Constellation illustrations: James Gitlin (STScI)
  • Black hole binary animation: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA TV
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of planetary nebula Mz 3: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, R. Sahai (JPL), and B. Balick (University of Washington)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of planetary nebula IC 418: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, R. Sahai and J. Trauger (JPL), and by A. Hajian (USNO), Y. Terzian (Cornell), B. Balick (Univ. Washington), H. Bond and N. Panagia (STScI)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of planetary nebula NGC 3132: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, R. Sahai (JPL), and collaborators
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of the Ring Nebula: The Hubble Heritage Team
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of Supernova 1987A remnant: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, Robert Kirshner (Harvard/CfA), Nino Panagia (STScI), Martino Romaniello (ESO), and collaborators
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of globular cluster G1: NASA and Michael Rich
  • Ground-based image of the Andromeda Galaxy: Robert Gendler
  • Globular cluster simulation: NASA and F. Summers (STScI), C. Mihos (Case Western Reserve University), L. Hernquist (Harvard University)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 4414: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, Wendy L. Freedman (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington), and Lisa Fratarre (STScI)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy ESO 510-G13: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, Chris Conselice (University of Wisconsin/STScI)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of the Circinus Galaxy: NASA, Andrew S. Wilson (University of Maryland), Patrick L. Shopbell (Caltech), Chris Simpson (Subaru Telescope), Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann and F. K. B. Barbosa (UFRGS, Brazil) and Martin J. Ward (University of Leicester, U.K.)
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the Circinus Galaxy: NASA, CfA, J. McClintok et al.
  • Ground-based image of Centaurus A: NOAO, CTIO
  • Radio image of galaxy Centaurus A: Jack O. Burns (University of Missouri) and David Clarke (St. Mary's University, Nova Scotia)
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy Centaurus A: E. Schreier (STScI)
  • X-ray image of galaxy Centaurus A: NASA, CfA, R. Kraft et al.
  • Hubble Space Telescope image of starburst galaxy NGC 3310: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team, S. Crawshaw (St. Andrews University), G. Meurer (JHU) and collaborators, and R. Windhorst (ASU) and collaborators
  • Active galactic nuclei images: G. Verdoes Kleijn (STScI), J. Noel-Storr (Columbia), R. van der Marel (STScI), S. Baum (STScI), T. de Zeeuw (Leiden), J. van Gorkom (Columbia)
  • Music courtesy of Associated Production Music
  • Produced by NASA, Bryan Preston, John Stoke, Roeland van der Marel, and Gjis Verdoes (STScI)
  • Written and designed by Bryan Preston


Transcript

(SPEECH) 
 [DRAMATIC MUSIC, DIGITAL CHIMING] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Text, Monsters in Deep Space. Scales form concentric rings around a closed eye. 

(SPEECH) 
 [THUDDING] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 The eye opens suddenly. The moon shines through a foggy mist wafting off a water surface. Text, We once believed that oceans were full of hungry monsters. A sea serpent appears in the water. But as we explored, "monsters" became 

(SPEECH) 
 [DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

[DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 whales, crocodiles, and giant squid. The serpent recedes into the distance as a sailing ship passes closer. 

A starry night sky, with the moon still shrouded in a wispy cloud. Text, No one expects to find hungry monsters in the ocean of space. But we have. Powered by pure gravity, these monsters are invisible. 

A blazing orange sun. Text, Animation. Gravity pulls gases together to form stars. The gases in a star "burn" in a process called nuclear fusion. This energy keeps gravity from shrinking the star further. 

Gravity and energy from fusion strike a balance, and the star can shine for millions or billions of years. Farther away from the star, a second appears dimmer in space behind it. Text, Stars are very massive, and this mass exerts gravity on everything, even starlight passing by. A dotted line from the distant star bends around the foreground sun. Text, Bend in light path is exaggerated. In 1784, English geologist John Michell imagined a star 500 times the mass of our sun, so massive that its gravity would trap its own light. Could a star be so massive that it would trap light? 

(SPEECH) 
 [DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[WHOOSHING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 This would prevent the star from shining, so he called it a "dark star." The orange sun in the foreground disappears. The core of the Milky Way appears across a clear night sky. Text, But are these "dark stars" real? How many might be out there? 

How would we find them? 

A constellation in the shape of a bird. Text, In the Constellation Cygnus, we notice a strong source of X-ray light, which is also a strong radio beacon. 

Astronomers pinpointed the source: the region of a large known star. A star in the bird's neck is circled. Text, That star seems to brighten and dim every 5 days. The star begins to fluctuate in brightness. 

Text, Perhaps the gravity of an unseen star is stretching the visible star, causing it to dim and brighten as the stars orbit each other. 

The X-rays dim and brighten along with the visible light. 

Stars don't normally give off X-rays. Where are these coming from? 

The mystery object, Cygnus X-1, has never been seen, but its effect is unmistakable. A diagram of the star that rotatesaround a dark disc in space as it's slowly absorbed by it. Text, Its strong gravity tugs on its mate's outer surface, pulling the dust and gas into a disk around itself. The stuff heats up and gives off X-rays as it falls in. Cygnus X-1 is eating its companion star. Animation. Cygnus X-1 is probably the remnant of a massive star that died in a supernova explosion sometime in the past. 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

[DIGITAL CHIMING] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Two masses of light create a brilliant explosion of color shooting out in two directions across space. When stars die, their ultimate fate depends on their initial mass. Smaller stars, such as our Sun, push off their outer gaseous layers, leaving behind a fading cinder called a white dwarf. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Three colorful gaseous clouds in space surround an empty hollow center. Text, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals the beauty and intricacy of these stellar remains. A larger star also pushes off its outer layers, but its inner core collapses as gravity takes over. It dies a fiery death. Animation. A star explodes, subtly at first, and then in a massive burst of light which sends magnetic shockwaves across the cosmos. A black disc surrounded by a thin ring of dim light appears where the star had been. Text, At its core, the remaining gas falls into a compact mass so dense that light cannot even escape. It has become a "dark star," or black hole. Cygnus X-1 was a massive star that probably collapsed to form a black hole. There are millions of very massive stars in our galaxy, so it may be filled with black holes like Cygnus X-1. But we can't see them unless they interact with other stars. But we can look for supernova remnants such as this one from a star that we saw explode in 1987. And we can look for other telltale signs. 

A spiral galaxy in space. Text, Near the Andromeda Galaxy astronomers may have found a heavier type of black hole. A tiny point of light is highlighted and enlarged as two stars orbit a cloud of material. Text, The globular star cluster G1 glitters like a cloud of diamonds. 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 The stars appear stationary in this Hubble image, but if you could watch them for millions of years you would see them orbit the cluster's center. 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 This computer simulation shows star motion in a typical cluster over the course of 50 million years. Points of light dance around a glob at the center. Text, Starlight can tell us if a star is moving toward or away from us. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 G1's stars seem to be orbiting something very massive. 

A black hole 20,000 times the mass of our Sun may dominate the cluster. 

The stars begin to speed off away from the cluster. They evaporate into space and leave a black void behind. 

Text, Some black holes are even more massive and lurk in the hearts of galaxies. 

These black holes are true monsters, dominating space for hundreds of light years in every direction. 

A bright light emanates from the core of a galaxy from the perspective of its edge in deep space. Text, Supermassive black holes are titanic graveyards for billions of suns. Like their smaller cousins, supermassive black holes cannot be seen directly. We must find them by looking at their surroundings. 

Pink and orange stellar gas brew around a bright galactic core in space. Text, In southern skies, the Circinus Galaxy roils like a witch's cauldron. A powerful engine in its bright core hurls gas and dust like a giant smokestack, which appears as the purple plume in this image. A cone highlights the purple gas being shot away from the core, perpendicular to the galactic disc. Text, That engine is thought to be a great black hole in the galaxy's center flinging gas away at incredible speeds. A zoomed out blurrier image of the galaxy in different color spectrum made up mostly of orange gas, with some colorful lights surrounding a white disc shape at the center. Text, In X-ray light, the Circinus black hole appears as the bright white area. The surrounding blue smudge may reveal gas falling onto a disk surrounding the black hole. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DIGITAL BEEPING] 

[THUDDING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

[DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Another galactic plane edge on, as light from the core illuminates its stellar community. Text, Elliptical Galaxy Centaurus A. In visible light, Centaurus A shows a wide lane of dust and gas across its heart. There's no hint of the monster lurking at its core. 

But in other wavelengths, the beast reveals itself. An intense concentration of light points like an arrow out from the core. Text, In X-ray light, a jet streams from the galaxy's center. Infrared spectrum shows massive jets of gas dwarfing the size of the galaxy shooting out in either direction, perpendicular to the galactic disc. Text, Radio-light-imaging reveals the monster's breath. Giant lobes blast away from the core. The lobes are particles thrown out by the massive black hole in the center. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 A full color image of the heart of the core with brilliant orange and black clouds of gas broiling around the enormous region. Centaurus A harbors a gigantic black hole a billion times more massive than our Sun. 

A spiral galaxy from top down. Text, What would it be like to visit a supermassive black hole in the core of a distant galaxy? 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 What would we see? 

Jets of light shoot out in straight lines from a swirling disc in space surrounded by bright clouds of stars and gas. Text, In the heart of a galaxy, an invisible beast consumes entire stars, its gravity mashing them into a vast disk many times wider than our solar system, and eventually swallowing the gas and dust that crosses the event horizon, the point of no return. 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Light from gas swirling around the black hole tells us how fast the gas is spinning. From this we can measure how massive the black hole really is. 

Jets of particles, propelled to near light-speed (perhaps by incredible magnetic forces around the black hole), shoot away from the disk. 

Astronomers look for such bright, hot jets and disks to find supermassive black holes. 

They are discovering them in the cores of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way Galaxy. 

The environment around a black hole is a swirling, violent place. Rotating disks of gas around a black hole as a stream of light is ejected out in a perpendicular direction. Grid lines show the spiral pattern of the disks. Text, Time slows down, light rays bend around backward. Black holes even warp space-time, the fabric of the universe, around themselves as they spin. 

Using radio telescopes, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found dozens of supermassive black holes lurking in the hearts of galaxies. A collage of infrared images of black hole discs at the heart of galaxies. 

(SPEECH) 
 [WHOOSHING] 

[THUDDING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Text, Whether they come from exploding stars... 

or form in the hearts of star clusters... 

or grow within galaxies throughout the universe... 

black holes, the dark, hungry monsters that eat everything that gets too close to them, are everywhere. A violently swirling disc of light surrounds a black hole. A black circle consumes it. Text, Special thanks to: Roeland van der Marel Gjis Verdoes Kleijn Space Telescope Science Institute. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[THUDDING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC] 

(DESCRIPTION) 
 Produced by: Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public Outreach. Sources for the graphics are listed in full. 

Music courtesy of Associated Production Music. Produced by NASA, Bryan Preston, John Stoke. Roland van der Marel, and Gjis Verdoes. STScI. Written and designed by Bryan Preston. For more information visit the Space Telescope Science Institute's Hubble Website: HTTP colon double back slash hubble site dot org. The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for NASA, under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. 

(SPEECH) 
 [DIGITAL CHIMING] 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC]