Hubble portrait

Cool new Hubble portrait of Jupiter’s storms – EarthSky

View larger. | This might not be the clearest image of Jupiter you’ve ever seen. Spacecraft images are clearer. But it is the clearest image taken from Earth we can recall. Isn’t it beautiful? It’s from the Hubble Space Telescope. The little moon to the left is Europa. Read below to learn about several famous storms of Jupiter, shown in this image. Image via NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL team.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of Jupiter on August 25, 2020, from a distance of 406 million miles (650 million km) from Earth. That wasn’t when Jupiter was closest to us this year. It was closest on July 15, a couple of days after Earth swept between Jupiter and the sun, as we do once each year. Still, in August, Jupiter and Earth were relatively close, in part accounting for the clarity of this image, which shows Jupter’s icy moon Europa (6th-closest of the planet’s 79 known moons) as well as some famous storms in Jupiter’s dense atmosphere.

There are lots of cool things to notice in this image.

First, notice Europa to the left of the planet. It’s the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, and is thought to have an ocean beneath its icy surface, possibly holding the ingredients for life.

Now, look at the planet itself. You probably know that the bands we see aren’t on the planet’s surface; instead, when we look at Jupiter, we’re seeing only the uppermost layers of its clouds. The image shows the Great Red Spot, a great storm greater in diameter than our entire Earth, rolling counterclockwise in the atmosphere above Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. NASA said the Red Spot plows into the clouds ahead of it:

… forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. The Great Red Spot is currently an exceptionally rich red color, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red.

Researchers say the Great Red Spot now measures about 9,800 miles (14,500 km) across, big enough to swallow Earth. The super-storm is still shrinking as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but the reason for its dwindling size is a complete mystery.

Now … see the second oval spot below the Great Red Spot? It’s also a storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere, called Red Spot Jr. by scientists. This storm on Jupiter has a long history. NASA said:

Red Spot Jr. is the first storm that astronomers watched develop on a gas giant planet. The huge spot formed between 1998 and 2000, when three small, white, oval-shaped storms merged together. Two of the white spots have been observed since about 1915, but they may have been present even earlier. The third white spot appeared in 1939. In December 2005, the newly formed single white spot turned red, like the much older Great Red Spot.

And NASA also said:

For the past few years, Red Spot Jr. has been fading in color to its original shade of white after appearing red in 2006. However, now the core of this storm appears to be darkening slightly. This could hint that Red Spot Jr. is on its way to turning to a color more similar to its cousin once again.

Now look more closely at Jupiter’s cloud bands. Note the bright, white, stretched-out storm at mid-northern latitudes (to the upper left of the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr). You can see it more clearly in the image below.

View larger. | The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of Jupiter in ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light on August 25, 2020. In this photo, the parts of Jupiter’s atmosphere that are at higher altitude, especially over the poles, look red from atmospheric particles absorbing ultraviolet light. Conversely, the blue-hued areas represent the ultraviolet light being reflected off the planet. Image via NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL team

NASA said this bright white storm is:

… traveling around the planet at 350 miles (560 km) per hour. This single plume erupted on August 18, 2020 – and ground-based observers have discovered two more that appeared later at the same latitude.

While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region every six years or so, often with multiple storms at once, the timing of the Hubble observations is perfect for showing the structure in the wake of the disturbance, during the early stages of its evolution. Trailing behind the plume are small, rounded features with complex ‘red, white, and blue’ colors in Hubble’s ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light image. Such discrete features typically dissipate on Jupiter, leaving behind only changes in cloud colors and wind speeds, but a similar storm on Saturn led to a long-lasting vortex. The differences in the aftermaths of Jupiter and Saturn storms may be related to the contrasting water abundances in their atmospheres, since water vapor may govern the massive amount of stored-up energy that can be released by these storm eruptions.

Bottom line: A beautiful new image of Jupiter from the Hubble Space Telescope – captured in August 2020 – shows the planet’s icy moon Europa as well as several famous storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere.


Deborah Byrd

Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

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Hubble Telescope

Hubble telescope observations highlight dark matter’s weirdness –

Once again, scientists have realized that when it comes to dark matter, they are missing a piece or two of the puzzle.

Dark matter makes up more than a quarter of the universe, scientists have realized, but they haven’t yet learned how to see it directly. (The weird stuff doesn’t emit, absorb or reflect light, hence the name.) So they turn to effects they can see, like the way a clump of dark matter warps space around it, tweaking our view of objects on the other side. But according to a new study, some tiny clusters are distorting space much more than scientists had expected.

“There’s a feature of the real universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models,” Priyamvada Natarajana, a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale University and a coauthor on the new research, said in a statement. “This could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales.”

Related: Dark matter and dark energy: The mystery explained (infographic)


These “galactic fireworks” are the colorful stars which make up the globular cluster NGC 1805, as seen in this photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This cluster of thousands of stars is located out at the edge of the large Magellanic Cloud.  (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Kalirai; CC BY 4.0)

The scientists behind the new research wanted to check how current theoretical models of dark matter stack up with the roundabout observations we can gather of it. So they turned to galaxy clusters, which hide a huge amount of dark matter.

“Galaxy clusters are ideal laboratories to understand if computer simulations of the universe reliably reproduce what we can infer about dark matter and its interplay with luminous matter,” Massimo Meneghetti, a cosmologist at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy and lead author on the new research, said in the statement.

The researchers used observations of three different galaxy clusters gathered by two instruments, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The scientists mapped the dark matter within the clusters by noting how the material was warping light.

Among the large-scale distortions the astronomers were expecting to find, they also spotted smaller areas of warping, which they suspect mark the locations of individual, smaller cluster galaxies that hide concentrations of dark matter.

But when the researchers combined their map of dark matter with a model’s predictions of what dark matter might look like in cluster galaxies, the two landscapes didn’t line up. That means scientists still haven’t cracked the puzzle of how dark matter behaves.

The research is described in a paper published today (Sept. 11) in the journal Science.

Email Meghan Bartels at or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Hubble photo

This new Hubble photo is absolutely mind-blowing – BGR

  • The Hubble Space Telescope operated by NASA and the ESA has returned another stunning image of an area of space.
  • The globular star cluster known as NGC 1805 is a collection of stars of varying ages and intensities.
  • The blue stars burn hotter and put off UV light, while the red stars put off infrared light, and Hubble can capture both thanks to its position high above Earth’s atmosphere.

The image above might look like a perfectly-timed capture of a firework exploding in midair, but it’s actually a distant collection of stars called NGC 1805. It’s what is called a globular cluster of stars, and you can see why. The image was captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and aside from being a gorgeous piece of stellar eye candy, it’s also an awesome example of why space telescopes are so important to our understanding of space.

As the Hubble website explains, the cluster is a densely packed collection of stars that are much closer than any star is to our own Sun. The stars are “100 to 1,000 times closer” to one another than any other star is to our Sun, which is pretty incredible.

With so many stars occupying a single area, you might be tempted to wonder what kinds of planets are orbiting them. If planets were orbiting these stars, they’d have an incredible view, but the Hubble team says that the odds are low. When stars form and such close proximity, planetary systems surrounding those stars are “unlikely,” according to scientists.

As for the incredible color variations we see in the image, that’s actually a byproduct of the way the image was captured as well as the differences in the stars themselves. Stars that show up blue in the image are detected using near-ultraviolet light. They burn hotter than the orange and red stars, which put off more near-infrared light. The fact that we can see all of these stars is thanks to Hubble being a space telescope, rather than ground-based.

The full-sized image is available here:

Earth’s atmosphere is really good at absorbing most UV light. Some UV light still sneaks through, but ground-based telescopes couldn’t capture this image in the same way that a space telescope can. Without having to deal with Earth’s atmosphere, Hubble can detect the UV light as well as the infrared light, painting a much clearer picture of this particular area of space.

“Usually, globular clusters contain stars which are born at the same time; however, NGC 1805 is unusual as it appears to host two different populations of stars with ages millions of years apart,” the Hubble team explains. “Observing such clusters of stars can help astronomers understand how stars evolve, and what factors determine whether they end their lives as white dwarfs, or explode as supernovae.”

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today,, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of
reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

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Hubble Shell

Hubble Unveils Andromeda’s Halo –“A Colossal Shell Within a Shell” – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in Astronomy, Science

Hubble Unveil's Andromeda's Halo --

“The sign of our extinction would be no more than a match flaring for a second in the heavens,” said film director Stanley Kubrick, about an image of the destruction of our planet to an alien observer in the Andromeda Galaxy, a massive spiral galaxy so close to our increasingly fragile Earth that it appears as a cigar-shaped smudge of light high in the autumn night sky. The Hubble Space Telescope has announced this week that it has captured the nearly invisible halo of our neighbor, M31–a veil of diffuse plasma extending 1.3 million light-years from the galaxy—about halfway to our Milky Way—and as far as 2 million light-years in some directions.

In the landmark study, scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have mapped the immense halo of gas, surrounding the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest large galactic neighbor discovering a complex and dynamic inner shell triggered by from the impact of supernova activity, that extends to about a half million light-years. “The outer shell,” says study leader Nicolas Lehner, astrophysicist at the University of Notre Dame,”is smoother and hotter.”

Reveals a Layered Structure

The Hubble team also found that the halo has a layered structure, with two main nested and distinct shells of gas. “Understanding the huge halos of gas surrounding galaxies is immensely important,” explained co-investigator Samantha Berek of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “This reservoir of gas contains fuel for future star formation within the galaxy, as well as outflows from events such as supernovae. It’s full of clues regarding the past and future evolution of the galaxy, and we’re finally able to study it in great detail in our closest galactic neighbor.”

“The Monster” –Andromeda Galaxy Foreshadows the Milky Way’s Fate

A signature of this activity is the team’s discovery of a large amount of heavy elements in the gaseous halo of Andromeda. Heavier elements are cooked up in the interiors of stars and then ejected into space—sometimes violently as a star dies. The halo is then contaminated with this material from stellar explosions.

Ancient Light of 43 Quasars

Through a program called Project AMIGA (Absorption Map of Ionized Gas in Andromeda), the study examined the light from 43 quasars—the very distant, brilliant cores of active galaxies powered by black holes—located far beyond Andromeda. The quasars are scattered behind the halo, allowing scientists to probe multiple regions. Looking through the halo at the quasars’ light, the team observed how this light is absorbed by the Andromeda halo and how that absorption changes in different regions.

The immense Andromeda halo is made of very rarified and ionized gas that doesn’t emit radiation that is easily detectable. Therefore, tracing the absorption of light coming from a background source is a better way to probe this material.

Hubble Unveil's Andromeda's Halo --

The purple-hued illustration of Andromeda galaxy’s halo, with background quasars (shown with yellowish dots) scattered throughout. This illustration shows the location of the 43 quasars scientists used to probe Andromeda’s gaseous halo. These quasars—the very distant, brilliant cores of active galaxies powered by black holes—are scattered far behind the halo, allowing scientists to probe multiple regions. Looking through the immense halo at the quasars’ light, the team observed how this light is absorbed by the halo and how that absorption changes in different regions. By tracing the absorption of light coming from the background quasars, scientists are able to probe the halo’s material. (NASA, ESA, and E. Wheatley, STScI)

“It’s Just Weird” –Andromeda’s Ring of Dwarf Galaxies Suggests We’re Missing Something

The researchers used the unique capability of Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to study the ultraviolet light from the quasars. Ultraviolet light is absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, which makes it impossible to observe with ground-based telescopes. The team used COS to detect ionized gas from carbon, silicon, and oxygen. An atom becomes ionized when radiation strips one or more electrons from it.

The 2015 Probe

Andromeda’s halo has been probed before by Lehner’s team. In 2015, they discovered that the Andromeda halo is large and massive. But there was little hint of its complexity; now, it’s mapped out in more detail, leading to its size and mass being far more accurately determined.

“Previously, there was very little information—only six quasars—within 1 million light-years of the galaxy. This new program provides much more information on this inner region of Andromeda’s halo,” explained co-investigator J. Christopher Howk, also of Notre Dame. “Probing gas within this radius is important, as it represents something of a gravitational sphere of influence for Andromeda.”

Similar to Milky Way’s Halo

Because we live inside the Milky Way, scientists cannot easily interpret the signature of our own galaxy’s halo. However, they believe the halos of Andromeda and the Milky Way must be very similar since these two galaxies are quite similar. The two galaxies are on a collision course, and will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy beginning about 4 billion years from now.

Scientists have studied gaseous halos of more distant galaxies, but those galaxies are much smaller on the sky, meaning the number of bright enough background quasars to probe their halo is usually only one per galaxy. Spatial information is therefore essentially lost. With its close proximity to Earth, the gaseous halo of Andromeda looms large on the sky, allowing for a far more extensive sampling.

“This is truly a unique experiment because only with Andromeda do we have information on its halo along not only one or two sightlines, but over 40,” explained Lehner. “This is groundbreaking for capturing the complexity of a galaxy halo beyond our own Milky Way.”

In fact, Andromeda is the only galaxy in the universe for which this experiment can be done now, and only with Hubble. Only with an ultraviolet-sensitive future space telescope will scientists be able to routinely undertake this type of experiment beyond the approximately 30 galaxies comprising the Local Group. “So Project AMIGA has also given us a glimpse of the future,” said Lehner.

The Daily Galaxy, Sam Cabot, via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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Captures Hubble

Hubble Captures Edge of the Cygnus Supernova Blast Wave – SciTechDaily

By ESA/Hubble
August 24, 2020

Cygnus Supernova Blast Wave

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope actually depicts a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave, located around 2400 light-years away. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Blair, Acknowledgement: Leo Shatz

While appearing as a delicate and light veil draped across the sky, this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope actually depicts a small section of the Cygnus supernova blast wave, located around 2400 light-years away. The name of the supernova remnant comes from its position in the northern constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), where it covers an area 36 times larger than the full moon.

The original supernova explosion blasted apart a dying star about 20 times more massive than our Sun between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. Since then, the remnant has expanded 60 light-years from its center. The shockwave marks the outer edge of the supernova remnant and continues to expand at around 350 kilometers per second. The interaction of the ejected material and the low-density interstellar material swept up by the shockwave forms the distinctive veil-like structure seen in this image.

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Hubble snaps

Hubble snaps close-up of comet NEOWISE –

Hubble snaps close-up of comet NEOWISE
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the closest images yet of the sky’s latest visitor to make the headlines, comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, after it passed by the Sun. This color image of the comet was taken on 8 August 2020.The two structures appearing on the left and right sides of the comet’s center are jets of sublimating ice from beneath the surface of the nucleus, with the resulting dust and gas bring squeezed through at a high velocity. The jets emerge as cone-like structures, then are fanned out by the rotation of the comet’s nucleus. Credit: NASA, ESA, Q. Zhang (California Institute of Technology), A. Pagan (STScI)

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the closest images yet of the sky’s latest visitor to make the headlines, comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, after it passed by the Sun. The new images of the comet were taken on 8 August and feature the visitor’s coma, the fine shell that surrounds its nucleus, and its dusty output.

Comet NEOWISE is the brightest visible from the Northern Hemisphere since 1997’s Hale-Bopp comet. It’s estimated to be travelling at over 60 kilometres per second. The comet’s to the Sun was on 3 July and it’s now heading back to the outer reaches of the Solar System, not to pass through our neighbourhood again for another 7000 years.

Hubble’s observation of NEOWISE is the first time a comet of this brightness has been photographed at such high resolution after its pass by the Sun. Earlier attempts to photograph other bright comets (such as comet ATLAS) proved unsuccessful as they disintegrated in the searing heat.

Comets often break apart due to thermal and gravitational stresses at such close encounters, but Hubble’s view suggests that NEOWISE’s solid stayed intact. This heart of the comet is too small to be seen directly by Hubble. The ball of ice may be no more than 4.8 kilometres across. But the Hubble image does captures a portion of the vast cloud of gas and enveloping the nucleus, which measures about 18 000 kilometres across in this image.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the closest images yet of the sky’s latest visitor to make the headlines, comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, after it passed by the Sun. The two images in this video were take three hours apart on 8 August 2020 and features the comet’s prominent jets that are emerging from the nucleus. Credit: NASA, ESA, Q. Zhang (California Institute of Technology), A. Pagan (STScI), and M. Kornmesser

Hubble’s observation also resolves a pair of jets from the nucleus shooting out in opposite directions. They emerge from the comet’s core as cones of dust and gas, and then are curved into broader fan-like structures by the rotation of the nucleus. Jets are the result of ice sublimating beneath the surface with the resulting dust/gas being squeezed out at .

Hubble snaps close-up of celebrity comet NEOWISE
This ground-based image of comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was taken from the Northern Hemisphere on July 16, 2020. The inset image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 8, 2020, reveals a close-up of the comet after its pass by the Sun. Hubble’s image zeroes in on the comet’s nucleus, which is too small to be seen. It’s estimated to measure no more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) across. Instead, the image shows a portion of the comet’s coma, the fuzzy glow, which measures about 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) across in this image. Comet NEOWISE won’t pass through the inner solar system for another nearly 7,000 years. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Q. Zhang (Caltech); ground-based image copyright © 2020 by Zoltan G. Levay, used with permission

The Hubble photos may also help reveal the colour of the comet’s dust and how that colour changes as the comet moves away from the Sun. This, in turn, may explain how solar heat affects the contents and structure of that dust and the comet’s coma. The ultimate goal here would be to determine the original properties of the dust. Researchers who used Hubble to observe the comet are currently delving further into the data to see what they’re able to find.

Hubble has captured other well-known comet visitors throughout the past year. This includes snapping images of the breakup of comet ATLAS in April 2020 and impressive images of the interstellar comet 2I BORISOV in October 2019 and December 2019.

Hubble snaps close-up of comet NEOWISE (2020, August 21)
retrieved 22 August 2020

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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Hubble Translated

NASA Has Translated a Hubble Photo Into Music, And It’s Absolutely Chilling – ScienceAlert


3 MAY 2020

The Universe is a wondrous place, full of vast numbers of planets to explore, unsolved mysteries, and even ‘superbubbles‘ blown by black holes.

But there’s one thing that space really isn’t: loud. Without Earth’s air molecules to help you hear, out there in space you’d be listening to a whole lot of silence.

Luckily, that didn’t stop NASA from figuring out a way to produce sound in the soundlessness of space back in 2019 – by ‘sonifying’ the above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Yep, move over music, podcasts, or audio-books – the new thing to listen to is Hubble images.

The image NASA used for this project was taken by the Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide-Field Camera 3 back in August 2018.

The guys working with Hubble call the image a ‘galactic treasure chest’ because of the number of galaxies splattered across it.

“Each visible speck of a galaxy is home to countless stars,” NASA explained about the image.

“A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very centre of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.”

But as beautiful as this image already is, it just reached a new level, once transformed into a stunningly eerie musical composition.

The team that created the sonified image explains that the different locations and elements of the image produce different sounds.

Stars and compact galaxies are represented by short and clear sounds, while the spiralling galaxies emit more complex, longer notes.

“Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz,” NASA explained in comments accompanying the video.

“Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones.”

And although it might sound a little eerie at first, the ‘sounds’ of this picture create a rather beautiful melody, especially near the middle, when the sound reaches a galaxy cluster called RXC J0142.9+4438.

“The higher density of galaxies near the centre of the image,” the team explained, “results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video.”

So there you have it: an entirely new way to enjoy the Universe.

A version of this article was first published in March 2019.

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Celebrates Hubble

Hubble Celebrates 30 Years in Space With This Stunning New Image – Yahoo Lifestyle

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 25, 1990, and has spent the last 30 years changing our understanding of the universe. To this day, the images that the Hubble Telescope capture allow scientists to constantly learn more and more about the cosmos. This week, the iconic Hubble Telescope turns 30—and NASA is celebrating by releasing a new online tool that lets you see what the Hubble Telescope saw on your birthday.

All you’ll need to do is type in the month and day of your birthday here to see the *stunning* image that the Hubble Telescope captured on your special day over the years. You won’t be asked to input your birth year, as there isn’t a photo assigned to every day of every year. The tool will instead show you the best photo ever captured on that date within the last three decades. While I was born in the ’90s, the image that generated for my birthday on July 21 was captured in 2004. I was treated to an image of two merging spiral galaxies, known as Antennae galaxies, which I learned from the included description. And not to brag, but the two spiral galaxies that came together on my ninth birthday resulted in the formation of billions of stars, so I’m feeling pretty special. Claps for us, cancers!

While you can’t nail down exactly what the Hubble saw on the day you were born, it’s still a super fun tool to play around with. You can access the tool here. Want more? NASA also released a podcast for the Hubble Telescope’s 30th birthday. You can also marvel at some other images the Hubble Telescope captured in the Caldwell catalog. I think this goes for all of us when I say: keep being out of this world, Hubble.

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News Writer
Kelly is the News Writer at House Beautiful where she covers a little bit of everything ranging from decorating trends and must-have products, to anything that includes doughnuts or glitter. 

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HeritageDaily Hubble

Hubble celebrates its 30th anniversary with a tapestry of blazing starbirth – HeritageDaily – Archaeology News – HeritageDaily

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Hubble Space Telescope’s iconic images and scientific breakthroughs have redefined our view of the Universe.

To commemorate three decades of scientific discoveries, this image is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the telescope has observed during its 30-year lifetime.

The portrait features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbour NGC 2020 which together form part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, approximately 163 000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef” because it resembles an undersea world.

On 24 April 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew. Deployed into low-Earth orbit a day later, the telescope has since opened a new eye onto the cosmos that has been transformative for our civilization.

Hubble is revolutionising modern astronomy not only for astronomers, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s seemingly never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for its exemplary scientific achievements. Unlike any other telescope before it, Hubble has made astronomy relevant, engaging, and accessible for people of all ages.

The mission has yielded to date 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers around the world have used to write more than 17 000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making it one of the most prolific space observatories in history. Its rich data archive alone will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come.

Each year, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dedicates a small portion of its precious observing time to taking a special anniversary image, showcasing particularly beautiful and meaningful objects. These images continue to challenge scientists with exciting new surprises and to fascinate the public with ever more evocative observations.

This year, Hubble is celebrating this new milestone with a portrait of two colourful nebulae that reveals how energetic, massive stars sculpt their homes of gas and dust. Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separate in this visible-light image, they are actually part of one giant star formation complex. The star-forming regions seen here are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun. These stars have short lives of only a few million years, compared to the 10-billion-year lifetime of our Sun.

The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, hefty stars near the centre of the image that has blown away its cocoon of hydrogen gas (coloured red) and dust in which it was born. A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster is illuminating the landscape around it. These massive stars also unleash fierce winds that are eroding the gas cloud above and to the right of them. The gas in these areas is less dense, making it easier for the stellar winds to blast through them, creating bubble-like structures reminiscent of brain coral, that have earned the nebula the nickname the “Brain Coral.”

By contrast, the blue-coloured nebula below NGC 2014 has been shaped by one mammoth star that is roughly 200 000 times more luminous than our Sun. It is an example of a rare class of stars called Wolf-Rayet stars. They are thought to be the descendants of the most massive stars. Wolf-Rayet stars are very luminous and have a high rate of mass loss through powerful winds.

The star in the Hubble image is 15 times more massive than the Sun and is unleashing powerful winds, which have cleared out the area around it. It has ejected its outer layers of gas, sweeping them around into a cone-like shape, and exposing its searing hot core. The behemoth appears offset from the centre because the telescope is viewing the cone from a slightly tilted angle. In a few million years, the star might become a supernova.

The brilliant blue colour of the nebula comes from oxygen gas that is heated to roughly 11 000 degrees Celsius, which is much hotter than the hydrogen gas surrounding it.

Stars, both big and small, are born when clouds of dust and gas collapse because of gravity. As more and more material falls onto the forming star, it finally becomes hot and dense enough at its centre to trigger the nuclear fusion reactions that make stars, including our Sun, shine. Massive stars make up only a few percent of the billions of stars in our Universe. Yet they play a crucial role in shaping our Universe, through stellar winds, supernova explosions, and the production of heavy elements.

“The Hubble Space Telescope has shaped the imagination of truly a whole generation, inspiring not only scientists, but almost everybody,” said Günther Hasinger, Director of Science for the European Space Agency. “It is paramount for the excellent and long-lasting cooperation between NASA and ESA.”


Header Image – This image is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed during its 30-year lifetime. The portrait features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbor NGC 2020 which together form part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, approximately 163,000 light-years away. Credit : NASA, ESA, and STScI

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