Hubble 30th


Image credit: NASA/JPL/STScI Hubble Deep Field Team

Hubble Celebrates its 30th Anniversary with a Tapestry of Blazing Starbirth

24 April 2020

This year, Hubble is celebrating this new milestone with a portrait of two colourful nebulae that reveals how energetic, massive stars sculpt their homes of gas and dust. Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separate in this visible-light image, they are actually part of one giant star formation complex. The star-forming regions seen here are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun. These stars have short lives of only a few million years, compared to the 10-billion-year lifetime of our Sun.

The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, hefty stars near the centre of the image that has blown away its cocoon of hydrogen gas (coloured red) and dust in which it was born. A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster is illuminating the landscape around it. These massive stars also unleash fierce winds that are eroding the gas cloud above and to the right of them. The gas in these areas is less dense, making it easier for the stellar winds to blast through them, creating bubble-like structures reminiscent of brain coral, that have earned the nebula the nickname the “Brain Coral.”

By contrast, the blue-coloured nebula below NGC 2014 has been shaped by one mammoth star that is roughly 200 000 times more luminous than our Sun. It is an example of a rare class of stars called Wolf-Rayet stars. They are thought to be the descendants of the most massive stars. Wolf-Rayet stars are very luminous and have a high rate of mass loss through powerful winds. 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. It has ejected its outer layers of gas, sweeping them around into a cone-like shape, and exposing its searing hot core. The behemoth appears offset from the centre because the telescope is viewing the cone from a slightly tilted angle. In a few million years, the star might become a supernova. The brilliant blue colour of the nebula comes from oxygen gas that is heated to roughly 11 000 degrees Celsius, which is much hotter than the hydrogen gas surrounding it.

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The Hubble Deep Field (HDF), made with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Besides the classical spiral and elliptical shaped galaxies, there is a bewildering variety of other galaxy shapes and colors that are important clues to understanding the evolution of the universe. Some of the galaxies may have formed less that one billion years after the Big Bang.

Representing a narrow “keyhole” view all the way to the visible horizon of the universe, how much would the HDF image cover the diameter of the full Moon (about 25% of the entire HDF is shown above) ?.

This is so narrow, just a few foreground stars in our Milky Way galaxy are visible and are vastly outnumbered by the menagerie of far more distant galaxies, some nearly as faint as 30th magnitude, or nearly four billion times fainter than the limits of human vision. (The relatively bright object with diffraction spikes just left of center may be a 20th magnitude star.) Though the field is a very small sample of sky area it is considered representative of the typical distribution of galaxies in space because the universe, statistically, looks the same in all directions.

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On Friday 24 April 2020, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope will be celebrating 30 years of science discoveries that have revolutionised nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology, and its countless pictures are unmistakably out of this world.

At 13:00 Central European Summer Time  (20:00 hrs AEST )on 24 April 2020, a press release will be publish featuring the new anniversary image


What is the anniversary Hubble 30th Image Release of?