NASA's iconic Hubble Space telescope shares with us a spectacular new image of an enormous, blue cosmic soap bubble as it celebrates its 26th year in orbit - truly an incredible feat for mankind.
Captured in perfect clarity, the birthday bubble is known as the Bubble Nebula or NGC 7635, a cloud of dust and gas brightened by the brilliant star within it. The vivid image marks a place for the Bubble Nebula in the exclusive Hubble hall of fame, succeeding an amazing lineage of Hubble anniversary pictures.
A Brief History Of Hubble
Hubble was launched into space on April 24, 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. This incredible device is the first space telescope of its kind.
To commemorate the historic launch day, Hubble spends time capturing stunning views of a particular cosmic object every year.
For its 25th anniversary, Hubble revealed a tapestry of celestial fireworks captured by the Wide Field Camera 3. The image shows a giant cluster named Westerlund 2, which contains approximately 3,000 stars.
In 2014, Hubble sent back infrared images of a star factory located 6,400 light-years away from Earth. The star factory is actually a dense, shadowy knot of dust and gas contrasted against the backdrop of the Monkey Head Nebula. This nebula is also called NGC 2174 or Sharpless Sh2-252.
The image captured for Hubble's 23rd anniversary is just as cool. It featured a glimpse of the sky in Orion's constellation, revealing a cloud that appears to rise like a seahorse from violent waves of gas and dust. This object is known as the Horsehead Nebula or Barnard 33.
Although Hubble is aging, it isn't showing any signs of wear or exhaustion.
The Bubble Nebula's Bubbly Personality
The Bubble Nebula is located about 8,000 light-years away from Earth in the Cassiopeia constellation. Hubble has observed the nebula before, but it is so enormous that the telescope only captures close-up sections of its shape.
In the new photo, four separate images taken by the telescope (WFC3) were stitched together into a mosaic, revealing the nebula's bubbly personality for the first time.
The incredible Bubble Nebula is not a remnant of a supernova or a stellar eruption. Inside it is a massive star known as SAO 20575, which generates powerful stellar winds, forming a near-perfect bubble.
The Bubble Nebula is about 10 light-years across, which is more than double the distance from Alpha Centauri to our sun. The stellar winds produced by SAO 20575 travel about 100,000 kilometers (62,137 miles) per hour. The bubble continues to expand, driven by the fierce stellar hurricane that continuously rips through the molecular cloud.
Happy birthday, Hubble! Here's to more amazing space discoveries.