Space: The final frontier from the view of Hubble Telescope/ Διάστημα: Το τελευταίο σύνορο από την οπτική του τηλεσκοπίου Hubble

Posted: 05/06/2011 in World

Every day, for the next 25 days, a new photo will be revealed here from the amazing Hubble Space Telescope. As I take this chance to share these images of our amazing Universe with you, I wish for a Happy Holiday to all those who will celebrate, and for Peace on Earth to everyone.

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 galaxy. The star, called V838 Monocerotis, has long since faded back to obscurity, but observations of a phenomenon called a «light echo» around the star have uncovered remarkable new features over the following years (this animation covers two years’ time). The light echo is light from the earlier explosion echoing off dust surrounding the star. Light from the outburst traveled to the dust and then was reflected to Earth. Because of this indirect path, the light arrived at Earth months after light from the star that traveled directly from the star. (NASA, ESA)

In early January of 2000, Hubble took this image of Galaxy Cluster Abell 2218, and its massive amount of «gravitational lensing». Abell 2218 lies some 2 billion light-years away in the Draco constellation and is so massive that its enormous gravitational field deflects light rays passing through it, much as an optical lens bends light to form an image. These magnifying powers provides a powerful «zoom lens» for viewing distant galaxies that could not normally be observed with the largest telescopes. The visible «arcs» are the distorted images of very distant galaxies, which lie 5 to 10 times farther away than the lensing cluster itself. (NASA, Andrew Fruchter and the ERO Team, STScI)

About 55 million years ago, a star near the dusty lenticular galaxy NGC 4526 exploded into a supernova, seen as a bright spot at lower left. In 1994, the Hubble Space telescope caught the weeks-long explosion as the light from it finally reached the Earth, and we called it Supernova 1994D, a fairly typical stellar explosion. The host galaxy also known as the Lost Galaxy lies in the background and is part of the Virgo Cluster. (NASA, ESA)

Also around 55 million light-years distant, we see here the colliding Antennae Galaxies (NGC 4038/NGC 4039) – a pair of interacting galaxies that lie in the constellation Corvus. The two spiral galaxies started to fuse together a few hundred million years ago making the Antenna galaxies the nearest and youngest example of a pair of colliding galaxies. Nearly half of the faint objects in the Antennae are young clusters containing tens of thousands of stars. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team)

This image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), represents a small section of a larger mosaic – the sharpest view ever taken of the Orion Nebula – a picture book of star formation with massive young stars that are shaping the nebula and pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars. The bright glow at left is from M43, a small region being shaped by ultraviolet light from a massive young star. Astronomers call the region a miniature Orion Nebula because only one star is sculpting the landscape. The Orion Nebula has four such stars. The Orion Nebula is 1,500 light-years away, the nearest star-forming region to Earth. (NASA, ESA, M. Robberto – STScI)

A nearly perfect ring of hot, blue stars pinwheels about the yellow nucleus of an unusual galaxy known as Hoag’s Object. This image captures a face-on view of the galaxy’s ring of stars, revealing more detail than any existing photo of this object. The entire galaxy is about 120,000 light-years wide, which is slightly larger than our Milky Way Galaxy. The blue ring, which is dominated by clusters of young, massive stars, contrasts sharply with the yellow nucleus of mostly older stars. What appears to be a gap separating the two stellar populations may actually contain some star clusters that are almost too faint to see. Curiously, an object that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hoag’s Object can be seen in the gap at the one o’clock position. The object is probably a background ring galaxy. (NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

Called I Zwicky 18, this galaxy – some 59 million light-years distant – has a youthful appearance that resembles galaxies typically found only in the early universe. Hubble has now found faint, older stars within this galaxy, suggesting that the galaxy may have formed at the same time as most other galaxies. I Zwicky 18 is classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy and is much smaller than our Milky Way Galaxy. The concentrated bluish-white knots embedded in the heart of the galaxy are two major starburst regions where stars are forming at a furious rate. The wispy blue filaments surrounding the central starburst regions are bubbles of gas that have been blown away by stellar winds and supernovae explosions from a previous generation of hot, young stars. A companion galaxy lies just above and to the left and may be interacting with I Zwicky 18

Just weeks after NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in December 1999, the Hubble Heritage Project snapped this picture of NGC 1999, a nebula some 1,500 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Orion. The Hubble Heritage astronomers, in collaboration with scientists in Texas and Ireland, used Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to obtain this colour image. (NASA/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team – STScI)

This image of the ancient open star cluster NGC 6791 was taken in early 2008. Studying the dimmest stars in the cluster, astronomers uncovered three different age groups of stars. Two of the populations are burned-out stars called white dwarfs. One group of these low-wattage stellar remnants appears to be 6 billion years old, another appears to be 4 billion years old. The ages are problematically out of sync with those of the cluster’s normal stars, which are 8 billion years old. Located 13,300 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, NGC 6791 is one of the oldest and largest open clusters known, containing roughly 10,000 stars. Also interesting to note are the numerous distant galaxies far beyond our Milky Way Galaxy that are visible between the crowded mass of stars. (NASA, ESA, and L. Bedin, STScI)

This object is a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. 7,000 light-years distant from us, the soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometers tall. Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighbourhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. The tower may be a giant incubator for those newborn stars. A torrent of ultraviolet light from a band of massive, hot, young stars [off the top of the image] is eroding the pillar. The column is silhouetted against the background glow of more distant gas. The bumps and fingers of material in the center of the tower are examples of stellar birthing areas. These regions may look small but they are roughly the size of our solar system. The blue colour at the top is from glowing oxygen, the red color in the lower region is from glowing hydrogen. This image was taken in November 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

This is the sharpest image ever made of the large «grand design» spiral galaxy M81, or Bode’s Galaxy made with Hubble data acquired over a two-year period. A spiral-shaped system of stars, dust, and gas clouds, the galaxy’s arms wind all the way down into the nucleus. Though the galaxy is located 11.6 million light-years away, the Hubble Space Telescope’s view is so sharp that it can resolve individual stars, along with open star clusters, globular star clusters, and even glowing regions of fluorescent gas. Bode’s galaxy is about 70,000 light-years across – slightly smaller than our own Milky Way, estimated to be 100,000 light-years in diameter. (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The «Retina Nebula» is in fact, a dying star named IC 4406. The left and right halves of the Hubble image are nearly mirror images of the other. If we could fly around IC 4406 in a starship, we would see that the gas and dust form a vast donut of material streaming outward from the dying star. From Earth, we are viewing the donut from the side. This side view allows us to see the intricate tendrils of dust that have been compared to the eye’s retina. Gas on the inside of the donut is ionized by light from the central star and glows brightly. Light from oxygen atoms is rendered blue in this image; hydrogen is shown as green, and nitrogen as red. One of the most interesting features here is the irregular lattice of dark lanes that criss-cross the center of the nebula. These lanes are about 24 billion kilometers wide, and are like an open mesh veil that has been wrapped around the bright donut. (NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team – STScI/AURA)

This image shows a handful of Bok globules (dark clouds of dense dust and gas) within a larger mosaic image of the Carina Nebula assembled in April of 2007. The clumps of dark clouds are nodules of dust and gas that have resisted being completely photoionized by the strong ultraviolet radiation of nearby young, bright stars. The globule at right is nicknamed «the caterpillar» – its glowing edge indicating that it is in the process of photoionization by the hottest stars in the cluster. the Carina nebula lies some 7,500 light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA, N. Smith – UC Berkeley, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

Resembling a rippling pool illuminated by underwater lights, the Egg Nebula offers astronomers a special look at the normally invisible dust shells swaddling an aging star. These dust layers, extending over one-tenth of a light-year from the star, have an onionskin structure that forms concentric rings around the star. A thicker dust belt, running almost vertically through the image, blocks off light from the central star. Twin beams of light radiate from the hidden star and illuminate the pitch-black dust, like a shining flashlight in a smoky room. The Egg Nebula is located 3,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. This image was taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in September and October 2002. (NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The gas giant Saturn, seen at full-tilt in November of 1999. Saturn’s orbit lies some 1.2 billion kilometers (about 67 light-minutes) away from earth. The planet itself is roughly 9.5 times wider than Earth and its rings – composed of 93 percent water ice – extend out to 120,000 km above its equator, averaging approximately 20 meters in thickness. (NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The tattered remains of a supernova explosion known as Cassiopeia A (Cas A), the youngest known remnant from a supernova explosion in the Milky Way. This composite image shows the Cas A remnant as a broken ring of bright filamentary and clumpy stellar ejecta. These huge swirls of debris glow with the heat generated by the passage of a shockwave from the supernova blast. The various colours of the gaseous shards indicate differences in chemical composition. Bright green filaments are rich in oxygen, red and purple are sulphur, and blue are composed mostly of hydrogen and nitrogen. Cas A is located ten thousand light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Cassiopeia. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

«The Grasshopper», or UGC 4881, is a stunning system consisting of two colliding galaxies. It has a bright curly tail containing a remarkable number of star clusters. The galaxies are thought to be halfway through a merger – the cores of the parent galaxies are still clearly separated, but their discs are overlapping. A supernova exploded in this system in 1999 and astronomers believe that a vigorous burst of star formation may have just started. This notable object is located in the constellation of Lynx, some 500 million light-years away from Earth. UGC 4881 is the 55th galaxy in Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. This image is part of a large collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on the occasion of its 18th anniversary on April 24th, 2008. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA and A. Evans, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University

Part of the famous «Pillars of Creation» formation in the Eagle Nebula, this eerie, dark structure, resembling an imaginary sea serpent’s head, is a column of cool molecular hydrogen gas (two atoms of hydrogen in each molecule) and dust that is an incubator for new stars. The stars are embedded inside finger-like protrusions extending from the top of the nebula. Each ‘fingertip’ is somewhat larger than our own solar system. The Eagle Nebula is 7,000 light-years distant from Earth. (Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen – ASU, and NASA/ESA)

Tightly wound, almost concentric, arms of dark dust encircle the bright nucleus of the otherwise nondescript galaxy, NGC 2787, in this image created by the Hubble Heritage team. Astronomer Marcella Carollo (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich) and collaborators used Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 to collect the data in January 1999. (NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team)

This object, nicknamed Gomez’s Hamburger, is a sun-like star about 6,500 light-years away that is nearing the end of its life. The «hamburger buns» are light reflecting off dust and the «patty» is actually the shadow of a thick disk around the central star, which is seen edge-on from Earth. The star itself, with a surface temperature of approximately 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit (10,000 degrees Celsius), is hidden within this disk. However, light from the star does emerge in the directions perpendicular to the disk and illuminates dust above and below it. (NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team – STScI/AURA)

Looking across 26,000 light-years of space toward the center of our Galaxy, Hubble captured this dense view of over 150,000 stars in February of 2004 while monitoring for any dips in brightness, or transits of orbiting planets. 16 candidate stars were found for closer scrutiny. (NASA, ESA, K. Sahu – STScI and the SWEEPS science team)

Seen here is a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago. On or around May 1, 1006 A.D., observers around the world witnessed and recorded the arrival of light from what is now called SN 1006, a tremendous supernova explosion caused by the final death throes of a white dwarf star nearly 7,000 light-years away. The supernova was probably the brightest star ever seen by humans, and surpassed Venus as the brightest object in the night time sky, only to be surpassed by the moon. It was visible even during the day for weeks, and remained visible to the naked eye for at least two and a half years before fading away. Today we know that the shockwave of SN 1006 has a diameter of nearly 60 light-years, and it is still expanding at roughly 6 million miles per hour. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team – STScI/AURA)

The Cat’s Eye Nebula (NGC 6543), about 3,300 light-years distant, shows a bull’s eye pattern of eleven or even more concentric rings, or shells, around the its center. Each «ring» is actually the edge of a spherical bubble seen projected onto the sky – that’s why it appears bright along its outer edge. Observations suggest the star ejected its mass in a series of pulses at 1,500-year intervals. These convulsions created dust shells, each of which contain as much mass as all of the planets in our solar system combined (still only one percent of the Sun’s mass). The view from Hubble is like seeing an onion cut in half, where each skin layer is discernible. (NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team – STScI/AURA)

ESO 593-8 is an impressive pair of interacting galaxies with a feather-like galaxy crossing a companion galaxy. The two components will probably merge to form a single galaxy in the future. The pair is adorned with a number of bright blue star clusters. ESO 593-8 is located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the Archer, some 650 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage -STScI/AURA, ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

This image is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, and it is by far my favorite Hubble image. Starting in late 2003, astronomers pointed Hubble at a tiny, relatively empty part of our sky (only a few stars from the Milky Way visible), and created an exposure nearly 12 days long over a four-month period. The result is this amazing image, looking back through time at thousands of galaxies that range from 1 to 13 billion light-years away from Earth. Some 10,000 galaxies were observed in this tiny patch of sky (a tenth the size of the full moon) – each galaxy a home to billions of stars. Go outside tonight, take a ball-point pen with you, and hold it up in front of the night sky at arm’s length. The tip of your pen is about 1 millimeter wide, and at arm’s length, it would cover the 10,000 galaxies seen in the Ultra Deep Field image. That’s how unbelievably massive the visible universe is. By way of comparison, to really put us Earthlings in our place in the Grand Scheme, please have a look at another famous image, the Pale Blue Dot – a photograph taken of the Earth (the tiny pale speck, top center) by Voyager 1 in 1990 from 4 billion miles away (about 6 light-hours). I will finish with the words of astronomer Carl Sagan about this Pale Blue Dot: «That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every «superstar», every «supreme leader», every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.» (NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith – STScI, and The HUDF Team)

The spectacular structure of Planetary nebula NGC 2818 contains the outer layers of a star that were expelled into interstellar space. The glowing gaseous shrouds in the nebula were shed by the central star after it ran out of fuel to sustain the nuclear reactions in its core. This Hubble image was taken in November 2008 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colors in the image represent a range of emissions coming from the clouds of the nebula: red represents nitrogen, green represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey to make the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core. The core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. At this distance – 26,000 light-years away – Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system. (NASA, ESA, Q.D. Wang (UMass, Amherst), JPL, and S. Stolovy (Spitzer Science Center/Caltech)

On February 24, 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope took a photo of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. In this view, the giant orange moon Titan casts a large shadow onto Saturn’s north polar hood. Below Titan, near the ring plane and to the left is the moon Mimas, casting a much smaller shadow onto Saturn’s equatorial cloud tops. Farther to the left, and off Saturn’s disk, are the bright moon Dione and the fainter moon Enceladus. These pictures were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 when Saturn was at a distance of roughly 1.25 billion km (775 million mi) from Earth. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

UGC 8335 is a strongly interacting pair of spiral galaxies. The interaction has united the galaxies via a bridge of material and has yanked two strongly curved tails of gas and stars from the outer parts of their bodies . Both galaxies show dust lanes in their centers. UGC 8335 is located in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, about 400 million light-years from Earth. It is the 238th galaxy in Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage, STScI/AURA-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope caught scattered light from the Boomerang Nebula in images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in early 2005. 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. The Boomerang Nebula resides 5,000 light-years from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is able to resolve patterns and ripples in the nebula very close to the central star that are not visible from the ground. (NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

Stars burst to life in the chaotic Carina Nebula in this image of a huge pillar taken in visible and in infrared light by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Composed of gas and dust, the nebula resides 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. This image, taken in visible light, shows the tip of the 3-light-year-long pillar, bathed in the glow of light from hot, massive stars off the top of the image. Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from these stars are sculpting the pillar and causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of gas and dust can be seen flowing off the top of the structure. Nestled inside this dense structure are fledgling stars. They cannot be seen in this image because they are hidden by a wall of gas and dust. Although the stars themselves are invisible, one of them is providing evidence of its existence. Thin puffs of material can be seen traveling to the left and to the right of a dark notch in the center of the pillar. The matter is part of a jet produced by a young star. Farther away, on the left, the jet is visible as a grouping of small, wispy clouds. A few small clouds are visible at a similar distance on the right side of the jet. Astronomers estimate that the jet is moving at speeds of up to 850,000 miles an hour. The jet’s total length is about 10 light-years. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

VV 705, or Markarian 848, consists of two galaxies that seem to be embracing each other. Two long, highly curved arms of gas and stars emerge from a central region with two cores. One arm, curving clockwise, stretches to the top of the image where it makes a U-turn and interlocks with the other arm that curves up counter-clockwise from below. The two cores are 16,000 light-years apart. The pair is thought to be midway through a merger. Markarian 848 is located in the constellation of Bootes, the Bear Watcher, and is approximately 550 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage STScI/AURA-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans, University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

The core of the spectacular globular cluster Omega Centauri glitters with the combined light of 2 million stars. The entire cluster contains 10 million stars, and is among the biggest and most massive of some 200 globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy. Omega Centauri lies 17,000 light-years from Earth. Image acquired in June of 2002. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

Messier 104 (M104), the Sombrero galaxy. has a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth. X-ray emission suggests that there is material falling into the compact core, where a 1-billion-solar-mass black hole resides. In the 19th century, some astronomers speculated that M104 was simply an edge-on disk of luminous gas surrounding a young star, which is prototypical of the genesis of our solar system. But in 1912, astronomer V. M. Slipher discovered that the hat-like object appeared to be rushing away from us at 700 miles per second. This enormous velocity offered some of the earliest clues that the Sombrero was really another galaxy, and that the universe was expanding in all directions. (NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

The Hubble Space Telescope caught the eerie, wispy tendrils of a dark interstellar cloud being destroyed by the passage of one of the brightest stars in the Pleiades star cluster. Like a flashlight beam shining off the wall of a cave, the star is reflecting light off the surface of pitch black clouds of cold gas laced with dust. These are called reflection nebulae. (NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA, George Herbig and Theodore Simon, University of Hawaii)

What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour – fast enough to travel from Earth to the Moon in 24 minutes! A dying star that was once about five times the mass of the Sun is at the center of this fury. It has ejected its envelope of gases and is now unleashing a stream of ultraviolet radiation that is making the cast-off material glow. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), installed by NASA astronauts in May 2009, snapped this image of the planetary nebula, catalogued as NGC 6302, which lies within our Milky Way galaxy, roughly 3,800 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius. The glowing gas is the star’s outer layers, expelled over about 2,200 years. NGC 6302 was imaged on July 27, 2009, with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in ultraviolet and visible light. Filters that isolate emissions from oxygen, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur from the planetary nebula were used to create this composite image. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

An international team of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a ghostly ring of dark matter that was formed long ago during a titanic collision between two massive galaxy clusters. It is the first time that a dark matter distribution has been found that differs substantially from the distribution of ordinary matter. This image shows the galaxy cluster Cl 0024+17 (ZwCl 0024+1652) as seen by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The image displays faint faraway background galaxies that had their light bent by the cluster’s strong gravitational field. By mapping the distorted light and using it to deduce how dark matter is distributed in the cluster, astronomers spotted the ring of dark matter. One of the background galaxies is located about two times further away than the yellow cluster galaxies in the foreground, and has been multiple-imaged into five separate arc-shaped components, seen in blue. (NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford, Johns Hopkins University)

The planetary nebula, IC 4593, lies in the northern constellation Hercules, about 7,000 light-years away from Earth. Its colorful, intricate shape reveals how the glowing gas ejected by a dying Sun-like star evolved dramatically over time. Over thousands of years, the clouds of gas expand away and the nebula becomes larger. Energetic ultraviolet light from the star penetrates more deeply into the gas, causing the hydrogen and oxygen to glow more prominently. This snapshot was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in February 2007. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA

A peculiar system of interacting galaxies known as Arp 194 contains several galaxies, along with a «cosmic fountain» of stars, gas, and dust that stretches over 100,000 light-years. The northern (left) component of Arp 194 appears as a haphazard collection of dusty spiral arms, bright blue star-forming regions, and at least two galaxy nuclei that appear to be connected and in the early stages of merging. A third, relatively normal, spiral galaxy appears off to the right. The southern (lower) component of the galaxy group contains a single large spiral galaxy with its own blue star-forming regions. However, the most striking feature of this galaxy troupe is the impressive blue stream of material extending from the northern component. This «fountain» contains complexes of super star clusters, each one of which may contain dozens of individual young star clusters. The blue color is produced by the hot, massive stars which dominate the light in each cluster. Overall, the «fountain» contains many millions of stars. These young star clusters probably formed as a result of the interactions between the galaxies in the northern component of Arp 194. The compression of gas involved in galaxy interactions can enhance the star-formation rate and give rise to brilliant bursts of star formation in merging systems. Arp 194, located in the constellation Cepheus, resides approximately 600 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

This image shows the edge of a giant gaseous cavity within the star-forming region called NGC 3324. The glowing nebula has been carved out by intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from several hot, young stars. A cluster of extremely massive stars, located well outside this image in the center of the nebula, is responsible for the ionization of the nebula and excavation of the cavity. The image also reveals dramatic dark towers of cool gas and dust that rise above the glowing wall of gas. The dense gas at the top resists the blistering ultraviolet radiation from the central stars, and creates a tower that points in the direction of the energy flow. The high-energy radiation blazing out from the hot, young stars in NGC 3324 is sculpting the wall of the nebula by slowly eroding it away. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, NGC 3324 is at the northwest corner of the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372), home of the Keyhole Nebula and the active, outbursting star Eta Carinae. The entire Carina Nebula complex is located at a distance of roughly 7,200 light-years, and lies in the constellation Carina. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

This portrait of Stephan’s Quintet, also known as Hickson Compact Group 92, was taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Stephan’s Quintet, as the name implies, is a group of five galaxies. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have shown that group member NGC 7320, at lower right, is actually a foreground galaxy about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group. NGC 7320 is 40 million light-years from Earth. The other members of the quintet reside 290 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. WFC3 observed the quintet in July and August 2009. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

This very deep image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the spiral galaxy NGC 4921 along with a spectacular backdrop of more distant galaxies. It was created from a total of 80 separate pictures through yellow and near-infrared filters. (NASA, ESA and K. Cook, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)

Huge waves are sculpted in NGC 6537, the Red Spider Nebula, a two-lobed nebula some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. This warm planetary nebula harbours one of the hottest stars known and its powerful stellar winds generate waves 100 billion kilometres high. The waves are caused by supersonic shocks, formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. The atoms caught in the shock emit the spectacular radiation seen in this image. (ESA & Garrelt Mellema, Leiden University, the Netherlands)

A small region inside the massive globular cluster Omega Centauri which boasts nearly 10 million stars. The stars in Omega Centauri are about about 16,000 light-years from Earth, and are between 10 billion and 12 billion years old. The majority of the stars in the image are yellow-white, like our Sun. These are adult stars that are shining by hydrogen fusion. Toward the end of their normal lives, the stars become cooler and larger. These late-life stars are the orange dots in the image. Even later in their life cycles, the stars continue to cool down and expand in size, becoming red giants. These bright red stars swell to many times larger than our Sun’s size and begin to shed their gaseous envelopes. After ejecting most of their mass and exhausting much of their hydrogen fuel, the stars appear brilliant blue. Only a thin layer of material covers their super-hot cores. These stars are desperately trying to extend their lives by fusing helium in their cores. At this stage, they emit much of their light at ultraviolet wavelengths. When the helium runs out, the stars reach the end of their lives. Only their burned-out cores remain, and they are called white dwarfs (the faint blue dots in the image). White dwarfs are no longer generating energy through nuclear fusion and have gravitationally contracted to the size of Earth. They will continue to cool and grow dimmer for many billions of years until they become dark cinders. All of the stars in the image are cozy neighbors. The average distance between any two stars in the cluster’s crowded core is only about a third of a light-year, roughly 13 times closer than our Sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. Although the stars are close together, WFC3’s sharpness can resolve each of them as individual stars. If anyone lived in this globular cluster, they would behold a star-saturated sky that is roughly 100 times brighter than Earth’s sky. Hubble observed Omega Centauri on July 15, 2009, in ultraviolet and visible light. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

This image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows the diverse collection of galaxies in the cluster Abell S0740 that is over 450 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. The giant elliptical ESO 325-G004 looms large at the cluster’s center. The galaxy is as massive as 100 billion of our suns. Hubble resolves thousands of globular star clusters orbiting ESO 325-G004. At the galaxy’s distance they appear as pinpoints of light contained within the diffuse halo. Other fuzzy elliptical galaxies dot the image. Some have evidence of a disk or ring structure that gives them a bow-tie shape. Several spiral galaxies are also present. The starlight in these galaxies is mainly contained in a disk and follows along spiral arms. This image was created by combining Hubble science observations taken in January 2005 with Hubble Heritage observations taken a year later to form a 3-color composite. The filters that isolate blue, red and infrared light were used with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard Hubble. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

This portrait is the most detailed view of the largest stellar nursery in our local galactic neighborhood. The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way located some 170,000 light-years away. Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun. The image, taken by Hubble on October 20-27, 2009, spans about 100 light-years across. (NASA, ESA, and F. Paresce, R. O’Connell, and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee)

Hubble’s Advance Camera for Surveys (ACS) recently took this image of galaxy NGC 4522 in the Virgo Cluster. Backdropped by many other more distant galaxies, the impression given by NGC 4522 is that it is flying apart. A phenomenon called ram pressure stripping is mangling the galaxy as it hurtles through a region of hot x-ray emitting gas at 10 million kilometers per hour- stripping away its own gas content. NGC 4522 is some 60 million light years away

The star cluster Pismis 24 lies in the core of the large emission nebula NGC 6357 that extends one degree on the sky in the direction of the Scorpius constellation. Part of the nebula is ionised by the youngest (bluest) heavy stars in Pismis 24. The intense ultraviolet radiation from the blazing stars heats the gas surrounding the cluster and creates a bubble in NGC 6357. The presence of these surrounding gas clouds makes probing into the region even harder. One of the top candidates for the title of «Milky Way stellar heavyweight champion» was, until now, Pismis 24-1, a bright young star that lies in the core of the small open star cluster Pismis 24 (the bright stars in the Hubble image) about 8,000 light-years away from Earth. Pismis 24-1 was thought to have an incredibly large mass of 200 to 300 solar masses. New NASA/ESA Hubble measurements of the star, have, however, resolved Pismis 24-1 into two separate stars, and, in doing so, have «halved» its mass to around 100 solar masses. (NASA, ESA and Jesoes Maz Apellyniz, Instituto de astrofisica de Andalucia, Spain, Davide De Martin, ESA/Hubble

The photographer itself – a crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis captured this still image of the Hubble Space Telescope above the Earth, as the two spacecraft continued their relative separation on May 19, 2009 after having been linked together for the better part of a week during the STS-125 mission. During the week five spacewalks were performed to complete the final servicing mission for the orbital observatory.

In 2004, Hubble created the deepest visible-light image of the Universe and now, with its brand-new camera, it is seeing even farther in the same region. This image, taken by the HUDF09 team with the new WFC3/infrared camera on Hubble in late August 2009, during a total of four days of pointing for 173,000 seconds of total exposure time, is the deepest image of the universe ever taken in near-infrared light. Nearly every smudge and bit of light in this image is a separate galaxy made up of billions of stars. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang. No galaxies have been seen before at such early times. The image was taken in the same region as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (2004), and is roughly 2.4 arcminutes wide. Again, I invite you to step outside some dark night in the future and gaze up at the sky, knowing that every bit of apparent darkness above is really filled with the faint light of these billions of faraway galaxies. Best wishes to all, and a Happy New Year – Alan. (NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, UCO/Lick Observatory and the University of California, Santa Cruz, R. Bouwens, UCO/Lick Observatory and Leiden University and the HUDF09 Team)

This remarkable picture from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows one of the most perfect geometrical forms created in space. It captures the formation of an unusual pre-planetary nebula, known as IRAS 23166+1655, around the star LL Pegasi in the constellation of Pegasus. The image shows what appears to be a thin spiral pattern of astonishingly regularity winding around the star, which is itself hidden behind thick dust. The spiral pattern suggests a regular periodic origin for the nebula’s shape. The material forming the spiral is moving outwards a speed of about 50 000 km/hour and, by combining this speed with the distance between layers, astronomers calculate that the shells are each separated by about 800 years. The spiral is thought to arise because LL Pegasi is a binary system, with the star that is losing material and a companion star orbiting each other. (ESA/NASA & R. Sahai)

This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionised gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation. Nestled inside this dense mountain are fledgling stars. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions from the pedestal at the top of the image. Another pair of jets is visible at another peak near the centre of the image. These jets, (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively), are signposts for new star birth and are launched by swirling gas and dust discs around the young stars, which allow material to slowly accrete onto the stellar surfaces. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on 1-2 February 2010. (NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team,STScI)

This is a NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope picture a comet-like object called P/2010 A2, which was first discovered by the LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program) sky survey on January 6th, 2010. The object has a complex structure – a pattern of filamentary structures near the point-like nucleus of the object and trailing streamers of dust – that suggests it is not a comet but instead the product of a head-on collision between two asteroids traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet (5 km per second). Astronomers have long thought that the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never before been seen. The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the 140-meter-diameter nucleus. Some of the filaments are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. At the time of the Hubble observations, the object was approximately 300 million km from the Sun and 140 million km from Earth. (NASA, ESA and D. Jewitt, UCLA)

At first glance, the scatter of pale dots on this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image looks like a snowstorm in the night sky. But almost every one of these delicate snowflakes is a distant galaxy in the cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 and each is home to billions of stars. The amount of mass in this sea of galaxies is huge, and is great enough to visibly bend the fabric of spacetime. The strange distortion in the shapes of many of the galaxies in this picture, which appear stretched and bent as if they were looked at through a glass bottle, is a result of gravitational lensing, where the gravitational fields around massive objects bend light around them. This picture was created from images taken through near-infrared and yellow filters using the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. (ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Ebeling)

The star HD 44179 is surrounded by an extraordinary structure known as the Red Rectangle. It acquired its moniker because of its shape and its apparent colour when seen in early images from Earth. This strikingly detailed new Hubble image reveals how, when seen from space, the nebula, rather than being rectangular, is shaped like an X with additional complex structures of spaced lines of glowing gas, a little like the rungs of a ladder. The star at the centre is similar to the Sun, but at the end of its lifetime, pumping out gas and other material to make the nebula, and giving it the distinctive shape. It also appears that the star is a close binary that is surrounded by a dense torus of dust – both of which may help to explain the very curious shape. The Red Rectangle is an unusual example of what is known as a proto-planetary nebula. These are old stars, on their way to becoming planetary nebulae. Once the expulsion of mass is complete a very hot white dwarf star will remain and its brilliant ultraviolet radiation will cause the surrounding gas to glow. The Red Rectangle is found about 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros (the Unicorn). (ESA/Hubble and NASA)

The little-known nebula IRAS 05437+2502 billows out among the bright stars and dark dust clouds that surround it in this striking image from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull), close to the central plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Unlike many of Hubble’s targets, this object has not been studied in detail and its exact nature is unclear. At first glance it appears to be a small, rather isolated, region of star formation and one might assume that the effects of fierce ultraviolet radiation from bright young stars probably were the cause of the eye-catching shapes of the gas. However, the bright boomerang-shaped feature may tell a more dramatic tale. The interaction of a high velocity young star and the cloud of gas and dust may have created this unusually sharp-edged bright arc. Such a reckless star would have been ejected from the distant young cluster where it was born and would travel at 200,000 km/hour or more through the nebula. This faint cloud was originally discovered in 1983 by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the first space telescope to survey the whole sky in the infrared. (ESA/Hubble, R. Sahai and NASA)

A spectacular view of Messier 66, the largest «player» of the Leo Triplet, a galaxy with an unusual anatomy: it displays asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio. The unusual spiral galaxy is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies, part of the larger Messier 66 group. Messier 66 wins in size over its fellow triplets – it is about 100,000 light-years across. (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage, STScI/AURA)

This light-year-tall tendril of cold hydrogen and dust and surrounding dust clouds, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, are located in the Carina Nebula. Violent stellar winds and powerful radiation from massive stars are sculpting the surrounding nebula. Inside the dense structures, new stars may be born. This image is a composite of 2005 observations taken of the region in hydrogen light (light emitted by hydrogen atoms) along with 2010 observations taken in oxygen light (light emitted by oxygen atoms), both times with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The immense Carina Nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Project, STScI/AURA).

In the upper right of this image is part of NGC 4921, an unusual spiral galaxy in the Coma Galaxy Cluster some 320 million light-years from Earth, with a backdrop rich with a variety of much more distant galaxies. The long exposure times and sharp vision of Hubble allowed it to not just image NGC 4921 in fine detail but also to see far beyond into the distant Universe. All around, and even through the galaxy itself, thousands of much more remote galaxies of all shapes, sizes and colours are visible. Many have the spotty and ragged appearance of galaxies at a time before the familiar division into spirals and ellipticals had become established. This image was created from 50 separate exposures through a yellow filter and another 30 exposures through a near-infrared filter using the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys on Hubble. The total exposure times were approximately seventeen hours and ten hours respectively. (NASA, ESA and K. Cook, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)

A detail of a larger mosaic – the sharpest view ever taken of the Orion Nebula – a picture book of star formation with massive young stars that are shaping the nebula and pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars. The bright glow at t is from M43, a small region being shaped by ultraviolet light from a massive young star. Astronomers call the region a miniature Orion Nebula because only one star is sculpting the landscape. The Orion Nebula has four such stars. The Orion Nebula is 1,500 light-years away, the nearest star-forming region to Earth. (NASA, ESA, M. Robberto – STScI)

While hunting for volcanic plumes on Io, the Hubble telescope captured these images of the volatile moon sweeping across the giant face of Jupiter in 1999. Io appears to be skimming Jupiter’s cloud tops, but it’s actually 500,000 km (310,000 mi) away. The conspicuous black spot on Jupiter is Io’s shadow and is about the size of the moon itself (3,640 km or 2,262 mi across). This shadow sails across the face of Jupiter at 17 km per second (38,000 mph). The smallest details visible on Io and Jupiter measure 93 miles (150 kilometers) across, or about the size of Connecticut. (J. Spencer, Lowell Observatory and NASA/ESA)

Messier 72 is a globular cluster, an ancient spherical collection of old stars packed much closer together at its center. French astronomer Pierre Mechain discovered this rich cluster in August of 1780, but we take Messier 72’s most common name from Mechain’s colleague Charles Messier, who recorded it as the 72nd entry in his famous catalogue of comet-like objects just two months later. This globular cluster lies in the constellation of Aquarius (the Water Bearer) about 50,000 light-years from Earth. The total exposure time for this image was about twenty minutes, its field of view about 3.4 arcminutes across. (ESA/Hubble and NASA)

This mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82) is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. It is a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out from its central regions where young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside in our Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as the Cigar Galaxy, M82 lies over 11 million light years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

A colourful star-forming region is featured in this image of NGC 2467. Looking like a roiling cauldron of some exotic cosmic brew, huge clouds of gas and dust are sprinkled with bright blue, hot young stars. Strangely shaped dust clouds are silhouetted against a colourful background of glowing gas. Like the familiar Orion Nebula, NGC 2467 is a huge cloud of gas, mostly hydrogen, that serves as an incubator for new stars. Hot young stars that recently formed from the cloud are emitting fierce ultraviolet radiation that is causing the whole scene to glow while also sculpting the environment and gradually eroding the gas clouds. (NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco, Macquarie University)

Hubble’s sharp vision reveals a crisp dust lane dividing the disk galaxy NGC 5866 into two halves. The image highlights the galaxy’s structure: a subtle, reddish bulge surrounding a bright nucleus, a blue disk of stars running parallel to the dust lane, and a transparent outer halo. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

Two galaxies perform an intricate dance in this new Hubble Space Telescope image. The galaxies, containing a vast number of stars, swing past each other in a graceful performance choreographed by gravity. The pair, known collectively as Arp 87, is one of hundreds of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby universe. The two main players comprising Arp 87 are NGC 3808 on the right (the larger of the two galaxies) and its companion NGC 3808A on the left. NGC 3808 is a nearly face-on spiral galaxy with a bright ring of star formation and several prominent dust arms. Stars, gas, and dust flow from NGC 3808, forming an enveloping arm around its companion. NGC 3808A is a spiral galaxy seen edge-on and is surrounded by a rotating ring that contains stars and interstellar gas clouds. The ring is situated perpendicular to the plane of the host galaxy disk and is called a «polar ring.» As seen in other mergers similar to Arp 87, the corkscrew shape of the tidal material or bridge of shared matter between the two galaxies suggests that some stars and gas drawn from the larger galaxy have been caught in the gravitational pull of the smaller one. The shapes of both galaxies have been distorted by their gravitational interaction with one another. Arp 87 is in the constellation Leo, approximately 300 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

A delicate sphere of gas, photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, floats serenely in the depths of space. The pristine shell, or bubble, is the result of gas that is being shocked by the expanding blast wave from a supernova. Called SNR 0509-67.5 (or SNR 0509 for short), the bubble is the visible remnant of a powerful stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Ripples in the shell’s surface may be caused by either subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or possibly driven from the interior by pieces of the ejecta. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 11 million miles per hour (5,000 kilometers per second). (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

Small, dim galaxies appear to flit like moths around a radiant street light in this image. The brilliant central object is a supergiant elliptical galaxy, the dominant member of a galaxy cluster with the mouthful of a name MACSJ1423.8+2404. This great swarm of galaxies is located about five billion light-years away in the constellation Boötes (the Herdsman). The gentle arcs surrounding the central galaxy are distorted views of even more distant galaxies. The gravity of the closer large galaxy creates a gravitational lensing effect, distorting and amplifying the light that passes close by on its way to an observer, like us. (ESA/Hubble and NASA)

n one of the largest and most detailed celestial images ever made, the coil-shaped Helix Nebula shows a fine web of filamentary «bicycle-spoke» features embedded in a colorful red and blue gas ring comprising one of the nearest planetary nebulae to Earth. Because the nebula is nearby, it appears as nearly one-half the diameter of the full Moon. The portrait offers a dizzying look down what is actually a trillion-mile-long tunnel of glowing gases. The fluorescing tube is pointed nearly directly at Earth, so it looks more like a bubble than a cylinder. A forest of thousands of comet-like filaments, embedded along the inner rim of the nebula, points back toward the central star, which is a small, super-hot white dwarf. (NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner, STScI, and T.A. Rector, NRAO)

Remember the earlier image of galaxy M66, a part of the Leo Triplet? This is a wider view, showing all three members of the triplet, M66 is lower right, M65 is at top right and galaxy NGC 3628 is seen nearly edge-on at left. The trio of spiral galaxies lies about about 35 million light-years away from Earth. (NASA, ESA and and Digitized Sky Survey 2 Davide De Martin, ESA/Hubble)

A ring of brilliant blue star clusters wraps around the yellowish nucleus of what was once a normal spiral galaxy in this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The ring is 150,000 light-years in diameter, making it larger than our entire home galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy, cataloged as AM 0644-741, is a member of the class of so-called «ring galaxies.» It lies 300 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team, AURA/STScI)

This close-up shot of the center of the Lagoon Nebula (M8) clearly shows the delicate structures formed when the powerful radiation of young stars interacts with the hydrogen cloud they formed from. The Lagoon Nebula lies some 4,100 light years away. This image was created from exposures taken with the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys on Hubble. Light from glowing hydrogen is colored red, light from ionised nitrogen is colored green and light through a yellow filter is colored blue. (NASA, ESA)

Abell 370 is one of the very first galaxy clusters where astronomers observed the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, the warping of space-time by the cluster’s gravitational field that distorts the light from galaxies lying far behind it. This is manifested as arcs and streaks in the picture, which are the stretched images of background galaxies. Ground-based telescopic observations in the mid-1980s of the most prominent arc nicknamed «the Dragon» (lower right) allowed astronomers to deduce that the arc was not a structure of some kind within the cluster, but the gravitationally lensed image of a galaxy that lies nearly 10 billion light years away. Hubble has now resolved new, previously unseen details in the arc that reveal structure in the lensed background galaxy. (NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team and ST-ECF)

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 is considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. Barred spirals differ from normal spiral galaxies in that the arms of the galaxy do not spiral all the way into the center, but are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars containing the nucleus at its center. At Hubble’s resolution, a myriad of fine details are seen throughout the galaxy’s arms, disk, bulge, and nucleus. Blue and red supergiant stars, star clusters, and star-forming regions are well resolved across the spiral arms, and dust lanes trace out fine structures in the disk and bar. Numerous more distant galaxies are visible in the background. In the core of the larger spiral, the nucleus shows its own extraordinary and distinct «grand-design» spiral structure that is about 3,300 light-years long. NGC 1300 lies roughly 69 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Eridanus. (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA)

Look carefully at this animated image. What you see is the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star at the heart of the Crab Nebula, propelling matter and antimatter outward at near the speed of light, seen in 24 sequential images acquired over several months by the Hubble Space Telescope. The Crab pulsar is a tiny, dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova, observed here on Earth in the year 1054. It is very small – only about 25 km (15 miles) across, has a mass about 1.5 times our own Sun, and rotates at an amazing rate of 30 times per second. Bright wisps of energetic particles can be seen moving outward from the pulsar at half the speed of light to form an expanding ring. These wisps appear to originate from a shock wave that shows up as an inner X-ray ring. Also, a turbulent jet appears to be spewing material to the left, looking much like steam from a high-pressure boiler – except it’s a stream of matter and anti-matter electrons moving at half the speed of light. This little neutron star, some 6,500 light-years away, has been doing this energetic pirouette for the past thousand years, and, undisturbed, will likely continue to do so for billions of years more. One thing I always want to take away from time spent looking at Hubble images: the Universe is a very dynamic place, even if it can often appear static due to vast distances and scales. (NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester)


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