NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating 25 years of service with a stunning new image.
To commemorate a quarter century of peering into the depths of both space and time, NASA unveiled Hubble’s 25th anniversary image on Thursday. The image is a breathtaking view of celestial fireworks which represents a fitting addition to Hubble’s collection of stellar imagery.
“Hubble has completely transformed our view of the universe, revealing the true beauty and richness of the cosmos” John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said in a statement. “This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science.”
The Hubble 25th anniversary photograph shows a cluster of stars known as Westerlund 2, named after Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund who is credited with its discovery in 1960. The region of space is of interest to researchers because it is a young stellar nursery that can provide insight into its formation.
The cluster contains approximately 3,000 stars and spans between 6 and 13 light-years across. It resides in a nebula known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. The enormous star cluster is approximately 2 million years old, containing some of the brightest, hottest and most massive stars in the galaxy.
“Because the cluster is very young — in astronomical terms — it has not had time to disperse its stars deep into interstellar space, providing astronomers with an opportunity to gather information on how the cluster formed by studying it within its star-birthing environment,” NASA said in a statement.
The image of Westerlund 2 combines visible-light data captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys with near-infrared exposures taken by the Wide Field Camera 3. In the image red shades represents hydrogen, while bluish-green tints are primarily oxygen, according to NASA.
Hubble launched on April 24, 1990 and, despite an early case of myopia, has gone on to vastly exceed its intended lifespan and has provided an unprecedented look into the cosmos, peering deeper into space that any other telescope.