Space Hubble Telescope News

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NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with a National Unveiling of Spectacular Images



In 1609, Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens and gave birth to modern astronomy. To commemorate four hundred years of exploring the universe, 2009 is designated the International Year of Astronomy. NASA's Great Observatories - the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory - are marking the occasion with the release of a suite of images at over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country in conjunction with Galileo's birthday on February 15. The selected sites will unveil a large, 9-square-foot print of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 that combines the optical view of Hubble, the infrared view of Spitzer, and the X-ray view of Chandra into one multiwavelength picture.

The International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories Image Unveiling is supported by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division. The project is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Spitzer Science Center, and the Chandra X-ray Center.

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Galaxy Cluster MACS J0717



The most crowded collision of galaxy clusters has been identified by combining information from three different telescopes. This result gives scientists a chance to learn what happens when some of the largest objects in the universe go at each other in a cosmic free-for-all. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers were able to determine the three-dimensional geometry and motion in the system MACS J0717.5+3745 (or MACS J0717, for short), located about 5.4 billion light-years from Earth.

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Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe. The first snapshots from the refurbished Hubble showcase the 19-year-old telescope's new vision. Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie "pillar of creation," and a "butterfly" nebula. With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope's new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments. NASA astronauts installed the new instruments during the space shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. Besides adding the instruments, the astronauts also completed a dizzying list of other chores that included performing unprecedented repairs on two other science instruments.

Now that Hubble has reopened for business, it will tackle a whole range of observations. Looking closer to Earth, such observations will include taking a census of the population of Kuiper Belt objects residing at the fringe of our solar system, witnessing the birth of planets around other stars, and probing the composition and structure of the atmospheres of other worlds. Peering much farther away, astronomers have ambitious plans to use Hubble to make the deepest-ever portrait of the universe in near-infrared light. The resulting picture may reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

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Hubble Image Showcases Star Birth in M83, the Southern Pinwheel



The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp "eye" of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants. The image at right, taken in August 2009, is Hubble's close-up view of the myriad stars near the galaxy's core, the bright whitish region at far right. An image of the entire galaxy, taken by the European Southern Observatory's Wide Field Imager on the ESO/MPG 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, is shown at left. The white box outlines Hubble's view.

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NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy



A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy is being unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event will commemorate the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609. In celebration of this International Year of Astronomy, NASA is releasing images of the galactic center region as seen by its Great Observatories to more than 150 planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries, and schools across the country.

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Hubble Catches Heavyweight Runaway Star Speeding from 30 Doradus



A blue-hot star, 90 times more massive than our Sun, is hurtling across space fast enough to make a round trip from Earth to the Moon in merely two hours. Though the speed is not a record-breaker, it is unique to find a homeless star that has traveled so far from its nest. The only way the star could have been ejected from the star cluster where it was born is through a tussle with a rogue star that entered the binary system where the star lived, which ejected the star through a dynamical game of stellar pinball. This is strong circumstantial evidence for stars as massive as 150 times our Sun's mass living in the cluster. Only a very massive star would have the gravitational energy to eject something weighing 90 solar masses. The runaway star is on the outskirts of the 30 Doradus nebula, a raucous stellar breeding ground in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The finding bolsters evidence that the most massive stars in the local universe reside in 30 Doradus, making it a unique laboratory for studying heavyweight stars. 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula, is roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth.

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A Galactic Spectacle



A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA's Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light-years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The imaging data were taken in 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2005. The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms," seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.

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Cosmic Ice Sculptures: Dust Pillars in the Carina Nebula



Enjoying a frozen treat on a hot summer day can leave a sticky mess as it melts in the Sun and deforms. In the cold vacuum of space, there is no edible ice cream, but there is radiation from massive stars that is carving away at cold molecular clouds, creating bizarre, fantasy-like structures. These one-light-year-tall pillars of cold hydrogen and dust, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, are located in the Carina Nebula.

This image is a composite of Hubble observations taken of the Carina Nebula region in 2005 in hydrogen light (light emitted by hydrogen atoms) along with observations taken in oxygen light (light emitted by oxygen atoms) in 2010, both times with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The immense Carina Nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina.

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Pinwheel of Star Birth



This face-on spiral galaxy, called NGC 3982, is striking for its rich tapestry of star birth, along with its winding arms. The arms are lined with pink star-forming regions of glowing hydrogen, newborn blue star clusters, and obscuring dust lanes that provide the raw material for future generations of stars. The bright nucleus is home to an older population of stars, which grow ever more densely packed toward the center.

NGC 3982 is located about 68 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy spans about 30,000 light-years, one-third of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. This color image is composed of exposures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). The observations were taken between March 2000 and August 2009.

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The Two-faced Whirlpool Galaxy



These images by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show off two dramatically different face-on views of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy.

The image at left, taken in visible light, highlights the attributes of a typical spiral galaxy, including graceful, curving arms, pink star-forming regions, and brilliant blue strands of star clusters. In the image at right, most of the starlight has been removed, revealing the Whirlpool's skeletal dust structure, as seen in near-infrared light. This new image is the sharpest view of the dense dust in M51. The narrow lanes of dust revealed by Hubble reflect the galaxy's moniker, the Whirlpool Galaxy, as if they were swirling toward the galaxy's core. These images will be presented on Jan. 13, 2011, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Wash.

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New Supernova Remnant Lights Up



Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are witnessing the unprecedented transition of a supernova to a supernova remnant, where light from an exploding star in a neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, reached Earth in February 1987. Named Supernova 1987A, it was the closest supernova explosion witnessed in almost 400 years. The supernova's close proximity to Earth has allowed astronomers to study it in detail as it evolves. Now, the supernova debris, which has faded over the years, is brightening. This means that a different power source has begun to light the debris. The debris of SN 1987A is beginning to impact the surrounding ring, creating powerful shock waves that generate X-rays observed with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Those X-rays are illuminating the supernova debris and shock heating is making it glow in visible light. The results are being reported in today's issue of the journal Nature by a team including Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who leads a long-term study of SN 1987A with Hubble. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble telescope has provided a continuous record of the changes in SN 1987A.

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Pandora's Cluster – Clash of the Titans



A team of scientists studying the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster, have pieced together the cluster's complex and violent history using telescopes in space and on the ground, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the Japanese Subaru telescope, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The giant galaxy cluster appears to be the result of a simultaneous pile-up of at least four separate, smaller galaxy clusters that took place over a span of 350 million years. The galaxies in the cluster make up less than five percent of its mass. The gas (around 20 percent) is so hot that it shines only in X-rays (colored red in this image). The image is a composite of separate exposures made by Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys detectors in October 2009, the VLT, and the Chandra ACIS detector. Hubble provides the central, most detailed part of the image, while the VLT, which has a wider field of view, provides the outer parts of the image. The distribution of invisible dark matter (making up around 75 percent of the cluster's mass) is colored here in blue.

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Hubble's 22nd Anniversary Image Shows Turbulent Star-making Region



Several million young stars are vying for attention in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a raucous stellar breeding ground in 30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula. 30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region visible in a neighboring galaxy and home to the most massive stars ever seen. The nebula resides 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. No known star-forming region that is inside our Milky Way is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.

The image comprises one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos and includes observations taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. Hubble made the observations in October 2011. NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute are releasing the image to celebrate Hubble's 22nd anniversary.

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Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe



Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time. The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Astronomers continue studying this area of sky with Hubble. Extensive ongoing observing programs, led by Harry Teplitz and Richard Ellis at the California Institute of Technology, will allow astronomers to study the deep-field galaxies with Hubble to even greater depths in ultraviolet and infrared light prior to the launch of JWST. These new results will provide even more extraordinary views of this region of the sky and will be shared with the public in the coming months.

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A Multi-Wavelength View of Radio Galaxy Hercules A



Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.

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Hubble Sees a Horsehead of a Different Color



Unlike other celestial objects there is no question how the Horsehead Nebula got its name. This iconic silhouette of a horse's head and neck pokes up mysteriously from what look like whitecaps of interstellar foam. The nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery over a century ago. But Hubble's infrared vision shows the horse in a new light. The nebula, shadowy in optical light, appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. This pillar of tenuous hydrogen gas laced with dust is resisting being eroded away by the radiation from a nearby star. The nebula is a small part of a vast star-forming complex in the constellation Orion. The Horsehead will disintegrate in about 5 million years.

As part of Hubble's 23rd anniversary Horsehead Nebula release, amateur astronomers around the world were invited to send in their Horsehead Nebula photos. Visit the Hubble Heritage Horsehead Image Release to view the contributions via Flickr and Tumblr and to send us your own image.

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Hubble Goes High Def to Revisit the Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'



Although NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken many breathtaking images of the universe, one snapshot stands out from the rest: the iconic view of the so-called "Pillars of Creation." The jaw-dropping photo, taken in 1995, revealed never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16.

Though such butte-like features are common in star-forming regions, the M16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative. The Hubble image is so popular that it has appeared in movies and television shows, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on a postage stamp. And now, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, providing astronomers with a sharper and wider view, shown in the right-hand image. For comparison, the original 1995 Hubble image of the gaseous towers appears in the left-hand view. Streamers of gas can be seen bleeding off pillars as the intense radiation heats and evaporates it into space. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars.

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NASA's Great Observatories Weigh Massive Young Galaxy Cluster



Astronomers have made the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA's Great Observatories. This multiwavelength image shows this galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short), in X-rays recorded by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, visible light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in green, and infrared light from the Spitzer Space Telescope in red.

This rare galaxy cluster, which is located 10 billion light-years from Earth, is almost as massive as 500 trillion suns. This object has important implications for understanding how these megastructures formed and evolved early in the universe. Astronomers have observed IDCS 1426 when the universe was less than a third of its current age. It is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early age.

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Telescopes Combine to Push Frontier on Galaxy Clusters



To learn more about galaxy clusters, including how they grow via collisions, astronomers have used some of the world's most powerful telescopes, looking at different types of light. They have focused long observations with these telescopes on a half-dozen galaxy clusters. The name for the galaxy cluster project is the "Frontier Fields." Two of these Frontier Fields galaxy clusters, MACS J0416.1-2403 (abbreviated MACS J0416) in the right panel and MACS J0717.5+3745 (MACS J0717 for short) in the left panel, are featured here in a pair of multiwavelength images.

Located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, MACS J0416 is a pair of colliding galaxy clusters that will eventually combine to form an even bigger cluster. MACS J0717, one of the most complex and distorted galaxy clusters known, is the site of a collision between four clusters. It is located about 5.4 billion light-years away from Earth. These new images of MACS J0416 and MACS J0717 contain data from three different telescopes: NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (diffuse emission in blue), Hubble Space Telescope (red, green, and blue), and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (diffuse emission in pink). Where the X-ray and radio emission overlap the image appears purple. Astronomers also used data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India in studying the properties of MACS J0416.

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Observatories Combine to Crack Open the Crab Nebula



In the summer of the year 1054 AD, Chinese astronomers saw a new "guest star," that appeared six times brighter than Venus. So bright in fact, it could be seen during the daytime for several months. Halfway around the world, Native Americans made pictographs of a crescent moon with the bright star nearby that some think may also have been a record of the supernova.

This "guest star" was forgotten about until 700 years later with the advent of telescopes. Astronomers saw a tentacle-like nebula in the place of the vanished star and called it the Crab Nebula. Today we know it as the expanding gaseous remnant from a star that self-detonated as a supernova, briefly shining as brightly as 400 million suns. The explosion took place 6,500 light-years away. If the blast had instead happened 50 light-years away it would have irradiated Earth, wiping out most life forms.

In the late 1960s astronomers discovered the crushed heart of the doomed star, an ultra-dense neutron star that is a dynamo of intense magnetic field and radiation energizing the nebula. Astronomers therefore need to study the Crab Nebula across a broad range of electromagnetic radiation, from X-rays to radio waves. This composite picture from five observatories captures the complexity of this tortured-looking supernova remnant.

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