Yesterday, April 24, 2010, Hubble Space Telescope (HST) turned 20 and was celebrated worldwide grandly. After its 1990 launch, the HST is an inevitable idol/superstar in space science.
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a space shuttle in April 1990. It is named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble. Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well-known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, and is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
To celebrate it’s birthday, I am decided to post some of the (to be precise : 20 pictures to celebrate it’s 20th Anniversary) most amazing, magnificent, astonishing, vibrant, vivid, uber-cool, mind-blowing, awesome, spectacular views/pictures captured from the fruitful Hubble Space Telescope.
By the way, pictures featured in this post are resized for optimal page load time. So you’re requested to click the picture’s source link to view and enjoy some of the cool high resolution space photos.
FYI : These Hubble Space Telescope pictures are in the public domain because it was created by NASA and ESA. Hubble material is copyright-free and may be freely used as in the public domain without fee, on the condition that NASA and ESA is credited as the source of the material which I did promptly.
My Small Dedication/Research to the HST & Team…
1. The Cosmic Butterfly
The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), a new camera aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, snapped this image of the planetary nebula, catalogued as NGC 6302, but more popularly called the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula.
WFC3 was installed by NASA astronauts in May 2009, during the servicing mission to upgrade and repair the 19-year-old Hubble telescope.
2. Cosmic Dust and Clouds
A recent NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope close-up image of part of NGC 7023, or the Iris Nebula, shows that the area is clogged with cosmic dust.
This image was taken after the May 2009 shuttle mission to overhaul Hubble for the final time.
3. Beautiful Barred Spiral Galaxy
One of the largest Hubble Space Telescope images ever made of a complete galaxy was unveiled at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, Calif.
The Hubble telescope captured a display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust in this 4-foot-by-8-foot image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 which is about 61 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus. The galaxy is about 110,000 light-years across; just slightly larger than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
4. Light Echo Years After Stellar Outburst
In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy.
The mysterious star, called V838 Monocerotis, has long since faded back to obscurity. But observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of a phenomenon called a “light echo” around the star have uncovered remarkable new features. These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star.
5. Auroras on Saturn
The ultraviolet images of Saturn were taken on Jan. 24, 26, and 28, 2004 by Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
The dancing light of the auroras on Saturn behaves in ways different from how scientists have thought possible for the last 25 years. New research by a team of astronomers led by John Clarke of Boston University has overturned theories about how Saturn’s magnetic field behaves and how its auroras are generated.
6. The Eagle Has Risen: Stellar Spire in the Eagle Nebula
NASA released this image to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope.
The soaring tower of the Eagle Nebula is 9.5 light-years or about 57 trillion miles high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star.
7. Boomerang Nebula
The Boomerang Nebula (also called the Bow Tie Nebula) is a proto-planetary nebula located 5,000 light-years away from Earth in the Centaurus constellation. The nebula is measured at 1 K (?272.15 °C; ?457.87 °F), the naturally coldest place known in the universe. The Boomerang Nebula was formed from the outflow of gas from a star at its core. The gas is moving outwards at a speed of about 164 km/s and expanding rapidly as it moves out into space. This expansion is the cause of the nebula’s very low temperature.
This reflecting cloud of dust and gas has two nearly symmetric lobes of matter that are being ejected from a central star. Each lobe of the nebula is nearly one light-year in length, making the total length of the nebula half as long as the distance from our Sun to our nearest neighbors- the Alpha Centauri stellar system, located roughly 4 light-years away. Hubble’s sharp view is able to resolve patterns and ripples in the nebula very close to the central star that is not visible from the ground. This Hubble image was recorded using polarizing filters (analogous to Polaroid sunglasses) and color coded by the angle associated with the polarized light.
8. Eye of the Wolf (IC 4406 – Retina Nebula)
The Retina Nebula of the Southern sky’s Lupus constellation peers at Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera.
All that remains of this dying star are dense columns of dust, and a striking iris of green (hydrogen), blue (oxygen), and red (nitrogen). The nebula’s left and right halves are nearly mirror images of the other.
9. Crowning Moment (NGC 2264 – Cone Nebula)
Resembling a nightmarish beast rearing its head from a crimson sea, this monstrous object is actually an innocuous pillar of gas and dust. Called the Cone Nebula (NGC 2264) — so named because, in ground-based images, it has a conical shape — this giant pillar resides in a turbulent star-forming region.
As if to don a crown of heavenly jewels, the entire nebula is 7 light-years long. The Cone Nebula resides 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. The column is destined to evolve into countless stars, and perhaps even generate some planets.
10. Peer Pressure (NGC 4676 or the Mice Galaxies)
NGC 4676, or the Mice Galaxies, are two spiral galaxies in the constellation Coma Berenices (Leo and Virgo).
About 290 million light-years away, they are presently in the process of colliding and merging. Their name refers to the long tails produced by tidal action—the relative difference between gravitational pulls on the near and far parts of each galaxy—known here as a galactic tide.
11. Milky Way Neighbor (N44C Nebula in Large Magellanic Cloud)
In our neighboring Magellanic Cloud galaxy, powerful stars blow a burning, nebulous breeze 160,000 light-years into the cosmos.
The star illuminating this scene is unusually hot, and nearly 10 times brighter than the Sun.
12. Ultra Deep Field: A Universe History
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), is an image of a small region of space in the constellation Fornax, composited from Hubble Space Telescope data accumulated over a period from September 3, 2003 through January 16, 2004.
The patch of sky in which the galaxies reside was chosen because it had a low density of bright stars in the near-field. It is the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind, the million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called “dark ages,” the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe.
13. Seven Sisters (Pleiades) Mystery Solved
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have helped settle a mystery that has puzzled scientists concerning the exact distance to the famous nearby star cluster known as the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters.
Although it might be expected that the distance to this well-studied cluster would be well established, there has been an ongoing controversy among astronomers about its distance for the past seven years.
14. Orion Nebula Reveals Thousands of Stars
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula.
More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside 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. This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.
15. More Moons of Pluto (Nix and Hydra)
A pair of small moons that NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered orbiting Pluto now have official names: Nix and Hydra.
Photographed by Hubble in May 15, 2005, Nix and Hydra are roughly 5,000 times fainter than Pluto and are about two to three times farther from Pluto than its large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978.
16. 20th Anniversary of Supernova 1987A
Twenty years ago, astronomers witnessed one of the brightest stellar explosions in more than 400 years.
Observations of SN 1987A, made over the past 20 years by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and many other major ground- and space-based telescopes, have significantly changed astronomers’ views of how massive stars end their lives. Astronomers credit Hubble’s sharp vision with yielding important clues about the massive star’s demise.
17. Star Birth in the Trifid Nebula NGC 6514
The Trifid Nebula (catalogued as Messier 20 or M20 and as NGC 6514) is an H II region located in Sagittarius. Its name means ‘divided into three lobes’. The object is an unusual combination of an open cluster of stars, an emission nebula (the lower, red portion), a reflection nebula (the upper, blue portion) and a dark nebula (the apparent ‘gaps’ within the emission nebula that cause the trifid appearance; these are also designated Barnard 85). Viewed through a small telescope, the Trifid Nebula is a bright and colorful object, and is thus a perennial favorite of amateur astronomers.
The picture also provides a peek at embryonic stars forming within an ill-fated cloud of dust and gas, which is destined to be eaten away by the glare from the massive neighbor. This stellar activity is a beautiful example of how the life cycles of stars like our Sun is intimately connected with their more powerful siblings.
18. Pillars of Creation (Eagle Nebula)
Now an iconic photo from Hubble Space Telescope…
This image was released in 1995, 5 years after Hubble launched.
19. Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543): A Jewel In the Sky
The Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula in the constellation of Draco. Structurally, it is one of the most complex nebulae known.
In the center of the Cat’s Eye there is a bright and hot star, which around 1000 years ago lost its outer envelope producing the nebula. Image of NGC 6543 processed to reveal the concentric rings surrounding the inner core. Also visible are the linear structures, possibly caused by precessing jets from a binary central star system.
20. Horsehead Nebula
In 2001, NASA polled internet users to find out what they would most like Hubble to observe; they overwhelmingly selected the Horsehead Nebula.
The Horsehead, also known as Barnard 33, is a cold, dark cloud of gas and dust, silhouetted against the bright nebula, IC 434. The bright area at the top left edge is a young star still embedded in its nursery of gas and dust. But radiation from this hot star is eroding the stellar nursery. The top of the nebula also is being sculpted by radiation from a massive star located out of Hubble’s field of view.
So just what is in store for the Hubble Space Telescope?
NASA aspires the superstar observatory will stay alive for at best another 5 years, to 2015, if not longer. It is now more authoritative than ever before after its fifth and last overhaul in May 2009.
Belated Happy Birthday Wishes to Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Team. Many more happy returns of the day.
Hope you all enjoyed this enormous post as much as I did. It took me a whole day to finish this killer pillar post. Some of your rocketing comments will make my day.
P.S. Actually this post was due yesterday. But as most of my friends are already aware of the fact that my dad’s birthday is also on the same day of HST launch (April 24 – 40 years earlier though) and celebrations thereafter, I couldn’t post it. Coincidentally, he is an avid sky watcher too! I already pet named him as a ‘Hubble Dad’ :-).
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