Hubble telescope celebrates 30th year in Earth orbit

James Marshall
June 14, 2020

The Hubble Space Telescope has shown off a mesmerising new image from deep in space to mark its 30th anniversary. "The picture, which was nicknamed" the Cosmic Reef" catches two nebulas from the star-forming region of space known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, which can be located around 163,000 light-years from Earth. Hubble has made 1.4 million observations to date and has become one of the most prolific space observatories in history, providing data used by astronomers around the world to generate more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications. "Its archival data alone will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come", NASA statement reads.

"The Hubble Space Telescope has shaped the imagination of truly a whole generation, inspiring not only scientists, but nearly everybody", said Professor Gunther Hasinger, ESA director of science. NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who died earlier this year, would have seen a photo from August 26, 2009 showing some of the oldest galaxies scientists had ever glimpsed at the time, including some that formed just 600 million years after the Big Bang. A total of five shuttle missions were launched to service, fix and upgrade the telescope at massive cost, but it has most definitely been worth it.

It was announced by the researchers that the giant red nebula, which attracted attention in the shared images, was smaller as "NGC 2014", and was called "NGC 2020".

NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 are both dominated by stars 10 times larger than our Sun, but they shine for only a fraction of the time, expiring after a few million years, as opposed to 10 billion years that the Sun will burn.

Nebulae NGC 2020-the stunning bluish feature at bottom left-was forged by a massive star approximately 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. 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.

The surrounding cloud comprises oxygen expelled from the surface of the star, which has been heated to a temperature of 11,000 °C (19,800 °F). causing it to glow a vivid blue.

This 3-D animation explores the 30th anniversary image of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in impressive detail.

It's within these roiling expanses of cosmic debris that stars are born.

With about 5% the mass of the Milky Way, the LMC contains many regions where baby stars are still actively forming. Yet they play a crucial role in shaping our Universe, through stellar winds, supernova explosions, and the production of heavy elements.

But the initial excitement about Hubble quickly turned to disappointment when it was discovered the telescope's primary mirror had been manufactured incorrectly, blurring the telescope's optics.

"It is paramount for the excellent and long-lasting cooperation between NASA and ESA".

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