The Hubble space telescope has celebrated 30 years of exploration with some amazing images of the birth of a star in another galaxy.
The telescope has been following the formation of stars in a giant red nebula 163,000 light years away in the Milky Way.
The Hubble was launched 30 years ago – on April 24, 1990 – from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
The telescope has revolutionised deep space exploration by supplying 1.4 million crystal-clear images unfiltered by the Earth’s dusty distorting atmosphere.
The Hubble has a mirror 2.4 metres wide and sensors that detect ultraviolet, visible and near infrared light.
The images are collected by NASA in the USA and distributed to astronomers and researchers worldwide.
Bigger and better
Engineers give the telescope a lifespan of at least another 20 years.
However, the successor is already under construction and ready to launch in March 2021.
The James Webb Space Telescope has a 6.5 metre mirror and enhanced infrared visibility.
These improvements will let the Webb telescope see more distant and older red shift objects than the Hubble.
“Hubble has given us stunning insights about the universe, from nearby planets to the farthest galaxies we have seen so far,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“It was revolutionary to launch such a large telescope 30 years ago, and this astronomy powerhouse is still delivering revolutionary science today. Its spectacular images have captured the imagination for decades, and will continue to inspire humanity for years to come.”
Cosmic Reef revealed
The Hubble images released by NASA to celebrate the space telescope’s 30th birthday are titled ‘Cosmic Reef’ and show spectacular views of a red star making nebula.
“The image is nicknamed the Cosmic Reef, because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars,” said a NASA spokesman.
“Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters. The nebula’s sparkling centrepiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our sun.
“The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material.”
NASA has a gallery of thousands of Hubble images that can be viewed online
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