Hubble Telescope Celebrates Its 28th Anniversary With Cosmic Photos of the Lagoon Nebula

Friday, 20 April 2018 - 6:17PM
Space
Astronomy
Friday, 20 April 2018 - 6:17PM
Hubble Telescope Celebrates Its 28th Anniversary With Cosmic Photos of the Lagoon Nebula
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NASA, ESA, STScI
The Hubble space telescope launched all the way back in April 24, 1990, and since then, it's done so much for the field of astronomy that the world "Hubble" has practically become a household name.

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:




NASA, ESA, STScI

NASA, ESA, STScI

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.

Science
Space Imagery
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Astronomy
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