30 Years in Space – Hubble Telescope Exploring the Cosmic Ocean – Images

Our Universe is filled with full of mysteries and surprises. Theoretically we are yet to understand the grand design of the universe. We have been using the best technology to explore this mysterious universe and to reveal its secrets. It was exactly Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990 we did a great contribution in space exploration which is still helping us in many ways to get an idea on our universe.

On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Earth with its precious cargo, the Hubble Space Telescope. The next day, astronauts released the telescope into space to begin its journey of discovery. No one could have predicted what wonders Hubble would see in the 30 years that followed. From our own cosmic backyard to the far reaches of the universe, Hubble showed us properties of space and time that for most of human history could only be imagined.

Hubble’s keen eye sees ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light, and delivers its wide range of discoveries through images and spectroscopy. The telescope has investigated our own solar system and characterized the atmospheres of planets around other suns. It has shown us how stars form, live out their lives, and die. Hubble has revealed intricate details of the shapes, structures, and histories of galaxies, as well as discovered supermassive black holes in galactic centers. Observing the cosmic frontier, Hubble has uncovered some of the universe’s earliest galaxies, explored the nature of the enigmatic dark matter, and built upon the discovery of the yet-unexplained phenomenon called dark energy.

Today, Hubble continues to churn out groundbreaking science, revealing new views of cosmic wonders and helping to answer even more of astronomy’s major questions. In the future, it will partner with NASA’s next great observatories, the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), to provide complementary science.

Hubble drifts over Earth after its release on May 19, 2009 by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The crew had performed all planned tasks over the course of five spacewalks, making the Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), the fifth astronaut visit to the Hubble Space Telescope, an unqualified success.

Hubble is revolutionizing modern astronomy, not only for scientists, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for Hubble’s top scientific achievements. Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging and accessible for people of all ages. The space telescope’s iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.

Backdropped by the horizon of the blue and white Earth and the blackness of space, the Hubble Space Telescope floats gracefully after the release from Columbia’s robot arm at the close of a successful servicing mission in March of 2002.

“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.”

Astronaut John Grunsfeld performs work on the Hubble Space Telescope as the first of five spacewalks on May 14, 2009, kicked off a week of work on the orbiting observatory. Grunsfeld, a spacewalk veteran with a long relationship with the telescope, participated in three spacewalks during Servicing Mission 4.

Unencumbered by Earth’s blurring atmosphere, the space observatory unveils the universe in unprecedented crystal-clear sharpness across a broad range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light.

Hubble’s top accomplishments include measuring the expansion and acceleration rate of the universe; finding that black holes are common among galaxies; characterizing the atmospheres of planets around other stars; monitoring weather changes on planets across our solar system; and looking back in time across 97% of the universe to chronicle the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies.

Hubble has peeled back the secrets of the universe, revealing a cosmos burning with creation and destruction on a massive scale. According to a release from the European Space Agency, the telescope has made a staggering 1.4 million observations, which have fueled the creation of 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Hubble’s longevity can be attributed to five space shuttle servicing missions, from 1993 to 2009, in which astronauts upgraded the telescope with advanced instruments, new electronics and on-orbit repairs. The venerable observatory, with its suite of cameras and other instruments, is expected to stay operational through the 2020s, in synergy with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C

Celebrating in Hubble’s way- Cosmic Reef

The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 30th launch anniversary with the release of a breathtakingly colorful portrait of two star forming nebulae – collectively nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef” – located in a nearby galaxy orbiting the Milky Way. Despite a rocky start that kicked off with a potentially mission ending complication, the telescope is still going strong, and continues to reveal the wonders of the universe in stunning detail.

A colorful image resembling a cosmic version of an undersea world teeming with stars is being released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of viewing the wonders of space.

The newly released image is a perfect example of the dramatic scenes that Hubble has captured over the course of its 30-year journey exploring the universe.

Two nebulae are detailed in the visiblelight image – the bright blue NGC 2020, which is located on the left of the image, and the larger NGC 2014, which dominates the rest of the piece. This dramatic scene unfolded some 163,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud – a satellite galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. The bright blue stars that stud the image have a mass around 10 times that of our Sun. These leviathans blast out intense streams of radiation and stellar winds that push away the surrounding cocoon of gas from which they coalesced.

Because of their massive size, these stars will live relatively short lives, at least in cosmic terms – just a few million years compared to the 10 billion years lifespan of yellow dwarfs like the Sun. But, in that time, they dramatically shape their surroundings.

The red cloud made of hydrogen gas and dust that dominates the image is in the process of being forced outwards by winds emanating from a concentration of energetic young stars to be found near the center of the image. As the gas moves farther into the void, it forms bubbles. Over many thousands of years this has made the nebula look like a piece of coral, hence NGC 2014’s nickname – the “Brain Coral.”

While the Brain Coral is shaped by the influence of multiple stars, the smaller, blue NGC 2020 Nebula located on the left of the image is being sculpted by a single enormous stellar body roughly 15 times the mass of our Sun, and 200,000 times as bright. It belongs to a rare family of stellar bodies called Wolf-Rayet stars. This particular stellar powerhouse may be just a few million years away from ending its life in a dramatic supernova.

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.

Let’s celebrate Hubble’s 30 years in space with some spectacular images took by the mission.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched from the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990

 

Astronaut Steve Smith carefully removes STIS from the protective enclosure that carried it into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

 

The Space Shuttle Atlantis’ robotic arm lifts the Hubble Space Telescope from the cargo bay on May 19, 2009, moments away from releasing the observatory to resume its travels around Earth. The release concluded Servicing Mission 4, the fifth astronaut visit to the telescope. Astronauts installed two new instruments, fixed two others, and performed numerous other repairs and upgrades.

 

The Space Shuttle Atlantis moves away from Hubble after the telescope’s release on May 19, 2009 concluded Servicing Mission 4. The Soft Capture Mechanism, a ring that a future robotic mission can grapple in order to de-orbit the telescope, is visible in the center.

 

The Hubble Space Telescope floats against the background of space as it is released by the Space Shuttle Atlantis after Servicing Mission 4 (SM4, STS-125) on May 19, 2009, 7:57 a.m. (CDT). The shuttle and telescope had been linked for the better part of a week while astronauts conducted five spacewalks. The mission is expected to be the last astronaut visit to the telescope.

 

Hubble has given us many images of our neighbor Mars. This image was taken in 2003 when Mars made its closest approach in nearly 60,000 years. On August 27, 2003, the two worlds were only 34.6 million miles apart from center to center. By contrast, Mars can be about 249 million miles away from Earth.

 

Hubble snapped this image in 2007 of Ganymede appearing to peek out from beneath Jupiter. Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system, and it’s even bigger than Mercury.

 

Hubble captured this image of Saturn in 2004, a view so sharp that some of the planet’s smaller rings are visible.

 

Hubble captured this image of the distant blue-green world Neptune in 2005. Fourteen different colored filters were used to help scientists learn more about Neptune’s atmosphere. Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles from Earth.

 

Hubble discovered four of Pluto’s five moons. In 2005: Nix and Hydra were found. Hubble discovered Kerberos in 2011 and Styx in 2012. The new discoveries joined Pluto’s large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978. Styx was found by scientists using Hubble to search for potential hazards for the New Horizons spacecraft which flew by Pluto in July 2015. Pluto is about 2.9 billion miles from Earth

 

The iconic Horsehead Nebula is a favorite target for astronomers. Look carefully and you’ll see what looks like the head of a horse rising into the stars. This Hubble image captures the nebula in infrared wavelengths. The nebula is 1,600 light-years from Earth.

 

The Cat’s Eye Nebula is a bunch of glowing gases kicked out into space by a dying star. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows details of structures including jets of high-speed gas and unusual knots of gas. This color picture is a composite of three images taken at different wavelengths. The nebula is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It’s about 3,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Draco.

 

The Bug, or Butterfly Nebula looks like a butterfly with its wings stretching across the galaxy. It’s actually a cloud of roiling gas shed by a dying star. Scientists say the gas is more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is expanding into space at more than 600,000 miles an hour. This image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, a camera installed on Hubble during its May 2009 upgrade by shuttle astronauts. The nebula is about 3,800 light years away in the constellation Scorpius.
Astronomers combined several Hubble images taken in 2014 to create an upgraded view of the Hubble’s iconic 1995 “Pillars of Creation” image. The new image shows a wider view of the pillars, which stretch about 5 light-years high. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, which is about 6,500 light years from Earth.
This huge nebula is 7,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Carina. It’s one of the largest and brightest nebulas and is a nursery for new stars. It also has several stars estimated to be at least 50 to 100 times the mass of our Sun, including Eta Carinae, one of the brightest stars known and one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.

 

One of the closest neighbors to our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, can be seen with the naked eye if you know where to look on a clear, dark night. In 2012, scientists using data from Hubble predicted Andromeda would collide with the Milky Way in about four billion years. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from Earth.

 

The Cigar Galaxy is 12 million light years away. It gets its name from its shape: From Earth it looks like an elongated elliptical disc.

 

It’s called one of the most photogenic galaxies: The Sombrero Galaxy looks like the giant broad rim of a Mexican hat sitting out among the stars. It can be spotted using a small telescope. It’s about 28 million light years from Earth.
This group of galaxies is about 290 million light years from Earth. It’s named for its discoverer, French astronomer Edouard Stephan, who first spotted it in 1877.

 

Hubble captured this image of a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The bigger galaxy has a center disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the pull from its partner below

 

In 2004, astronomers unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken to date. Called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, the million-second-long exposure shows the first galaxies to emerge shortly after the Big Bang. The image shows an estimated 10,000 galaxies. In 2012, astronomers assembled an upgraded image called the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field. It combined 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. The new image contains about 5,500 galaxies.

 

This 2018 Hubble image shows the Lagoon Nebula, a chaotic nursery full of baby stars. At the center of this image, a young star 200,000 times brighter than our sun blasts out ultraviolet radiation.

 

Even stars like to blow bubbles. This 2016 image shares Hubble’s view of the Bubble Nebula, where a superhot, massive star is blowing a giant bubble into space. The nebula is 7 light-years across.

 

The Cone Nebula is a turbulent star-forming pillar of gas and dust. It’s 7 light-years long, but this image taken by Hubble in 2002 shows the top 2.5 light-years (which equals 23 million round trips to the moon). Ultraviolet radiation causes the hydrogen gas to emit an eerie red glow.

 

This is a detailed look at the section of a slowly expanding supernova, or the remains of an exploded star. Hubble took this image in 2015 of the Veil Nebula 2,100 light-years away. The star was once 20 times more massive than our sun, but only wisps of gas remain.

 

In 2009, NASA’s Great Observatories, including Hubble along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, combined their observational power to create this unprecedented composite image of our Milky Way galaxy’s center. Infrared and X-ray light captured by the telescopes can be seen here. Hubble’s contributions are in yellow, Spitzer’s observations are in red and Chandra’s are blue and violet.

 

Hubble also teamed up with Spitzer to create this stunning image of the Orion Nebula in 2006. The image combines visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. A community of massive stars is represented by the yellow at the heart of the image.

 

Hubble captured this view of an expanding light halo around the star V838 Monocerotis in 2004.

 

M83 is a nearby spiral galaxy, and this 2014 Hubble image showcases its thousands of clusters of stars and supernova remnants. The young stars can be seen in pink bubbles of hydrogen gas.

 

This infrared light image taken by Hubble in 2014 shows the Monkey Head Nebula, where starbirth is occurring 6,400 light-years away from us. Dust clouds and glowing gas swirl together here, representing the ingredients for forming stars.

 

This ultraviolet light observation of the giant Eta Carinae star was taken by Hubble in 2019. The star is the larger out of two that orbit each other. It’s known to have violent outbursts, as evidenced by the bubbles here.

 

Fireworks are even more beautiful in space. Hubble captured this image of a giant cluster of 3,000 stars in 2015. It’s called Westerlund 2, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

Hubble has allowed us to stare back into the distant past, and observe the magnificent structures that populate our often strange, and always beautiful universe. Eventually, Hubble will be forced into retirement as it starts to show its age, and new cutting-edge telescopes are launched.

But that’s a problem for a different time. The old master has years of life left in it yet.

Credits: NASA, ESA, Hubble Telescope’s Official Websites

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