Here’s how to interpret it: The bright line through the middle is the main disc of our Milky Way galaxy, and it’s surrounded by the dust where new stars are being formed.
The red and yellow areas at the top and bottom are the cosmic microwave background radiation, the oldest light in the universe. (Astronomers will digitally remove the Milky Way’s emissions to see the whole microwave background, hoping to learn much more about how the universe formed and evolved.)
Paul Davies, director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University and a Science & Religion Today contributor, explains:
After the big bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago, matter was spread smoothly through space. Aided by the gravitating power of the dark component, ordinary matter was pulled into clumps, which later evolved into galaxies that spawned stars, planets, and, in one case at least, life.
A consensus has emerged that dark matter mostly consists of massive particles coughed out of the big bang. The reason for the appellation “dark” is because, unlike atomic particles, they have no electric charge, so cannot emit or scatter light. Nor do they feel the strong nuclear force that traps protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei. As a result, the dark particles interact so feebly with ordinary matter that they mostly pass right through it.
Behold the Butterfly Nebula—one of a new batch of images from the upgraded Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope can now look deeper into space than ever before, as NASA explains:
Hubble’s suite of new instruments allows it to study the universe across a wide swath of the light spectrum, from ultraviolet all the way to near-infrared. In addition, scientists released spectroscopic observations that slice across billions of light-years to probe the cosmic-web structure of the universe and map the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life as we know it.
NASA scientists have found glycine in the samples the Stardust spacecraft collected from the dust and gas around the comet Wild 2. As Jamie Elsila of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explains:
Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet. Our discovery supports the theory that some of life’s ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts.