In In celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch, NASA and ESA released a stunning image of the Southern Crab Nebula that the space telescope captured for the occasion.
The images that Hubble captures are relevant to the science community and also to members of the general public who wish to get a glimpse of the universe.
29th Launch Anniversary
Each year, the Hubble Space Telescope allots a small portion of its time to capture special images for its anniversary, focusing primarily on the beautiful objects in the universe. On the 29th anniversary since it launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery in April 24, 1990, it captured and shared a stunning image of the Southern Crab Nebula.
Interestingly, it was actually Hubble that first captured a clear image of the nebula in 1999 and gave astronomers an idea of what it truly is. In 1967, it was merely believed to be an ordinary star until 1989, when further observations revealed it to be a crab-shaped extended nebula. However, it was not until Hubble captured images of it in 1999 that experts really had a full view of the structure, so it is fitting to have it as the anniversary photo now, 20 years later.
Southern Crab Nebula
The Southern Crab Nebula, not to be mistaken with the famous Crab Nebula in the Taurus constellation, is located several thousand light-years from the Earth in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Centaurus. It shows hourglass-shaped structures that are actually a result of the interaction of an unequal pair of stars at the center, one of which is a red giant and the other a white dwarf.
As the red giant casts off some of its material in its final years, some of it is captured by the gravitational pull of the white dwarf, and it too casts off materials of its own. This interaction is what is causing the stunning structures that we see in the image.