Hubble Telescope Celebrates Its 28th Anniversary With Cosmic Photos of the Lagoon Nebula
So, to celebrate its birthday, Hubble's co-owners NASA and ESA released some of Hubble's coolest work yet just a few days before its official anniversary (why they didn't wait until the 24th is a mystery, but hey, we're not complaining). The subject in question is the enormous Lagoon Nebula about 4,000 lightyears away, which has been photographed by Hubble before, but it's a big enough object that there's always a new angle to be taken.
See the photos below, a normal photo and then an infrared view:
These Hubble images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble's 28th anniversary in space: https://t.co/UwC20K0c6R pic.twitter.com/IblF6ZbGx3— Hubble (@NASAHubble) April 19, 2018
The Lagoon Nebula is notable for being visible to the naked eye under the right conditions (which means standing in a well-lit city won't do you much good) and when it is visible, it can take up more than four times as much space in the night sky as the Moon.
That's because despite being 4,000 lightyears away, the Lagoon Nebula is a cosmic dust cloud that's 55 lightyears wide and 20 lightyears tall. It's nearly impossible to take a detailed photo of the entire thing, which is why this newest photo only covers about four lightyears worth of the nebula. For context, the nearest star to our sun is Proxima Centuari, which is about 4.2 lightyears away.
Nebulas contain lots of the gasses and dust necessary to form new stars, and the Lagoon Nebula similarly functions as a stellar nursery. The bright star in the center of this photo is Herschel 36, which is volatile enough that some of its radiation has punctured holes in the surrounding nebula.
All in all, it doesn't matter if this photo was released a few days before Hubble's official anniversary. Looking into the heart of a giant nebula is a great way to spend 4/20.