NASA and ESA celebrate these days 30 years of Hubble and they have selected the image you see on the cover to celebrate its launch into orbit by the Discovery shuttle on April 24, 1990. The space telescope is a joint project of the American and European space agencies and has revolutionized all areas of astronomical research after observing in detail tens of thousands of celestial bodies and giving us the most beautiful images of the deep Universe.
And it will continue to do so for the next decade, thanks to the updates it has received and repair operations such as the original problem in the polishing of the main mirror, which together with the delay due to the accident of the Challenger, was about to make it the biggest fiasco in the history. Fortunately, it could be repaired, and the iconic images from the space telescope have redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.
The composition chosen to celebrate 30 years of Hubble has been named “Cosmic Reef” and shows two nebulae, the large NGC 2014 (red) and the small NGC 2020 (blue). They are found in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy in orbit of our Milky Way. At a distance of 163,000 light years, we will not be able to visit it soon, but the space telescope brings us a beautiful view of the ethereal areas of cloud star formation.
Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separated in this visible light image, they are actually part of a gigantic star-forming complex. The regions seen are dominated by the glare of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun. These stars have a short life span of just a few million years, compared to the estimated 10 billion years of our Sun .
The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a cluster of bright, massive stars where a cocoon of hydrogen gas (red in color) and dust is glimpsed in which it was born. A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster illuminates the surrounding landscape. In contrast, the blue nebula below NGC 2014 has been formed by a gigantic star that is approximately 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. It is an example of a rare class of stars called Wolf-Rayet stars, which is believed to be who are descendants of the most massive stars. In a few million years, the star could become a supernova, they explain from ESA.
30 years of Hubble
NASA and ESA have published on each anniversary different compositions created with the images obtained by the telescope. We leave you with some of the most popular as a tribute to this instrument that has brought us closer to the Cosmos like no other.
NGC 4302 and NGC 4298. Image chosen to celebrate the 27th anniversary. It shows two galaxies located 55 million light years away at a distance of 7,000 light years. NASA says that while they look very different as they are angled at different positions in the sky, they are actually very similar in terms of structure and content.
Jupiter – Io. The 9th anniversary composition featured an image of the planet Jupiter, the largest celestial body in the solar system after the Sun and one of its satellites, Io, discovered by Galileo in 1610.
Barnard 33 – Horse Head. Impressive nebula that was chosen to celebrate Hubble’s 11th anniversary. It is a cold and dark gas cloud, located about 1500 light years from Earth, south of the Orion belt.
Omega – Swan Nebula. It was published to celebrate Hubble’s 13th anniversary and shows a nebula that is located in the Sagittarius constellation at 6000 light years and is about 15 light years in diameter. It is believed to contain between 8,000 and 10,000 stars that have been born into it.
Carina. It is one of the most detailed compositions of the Carina Nebula, one of the largest known star-birth regions. The composition was created from dozens of Hubble images and published to celebrate the 17th anniversary.
Westerlund 2. A massive star cluster with more than 3,000 stars located south of Carina some 26,000 light-years from Earth that contains some of the most massive stars in the galaxy. The composition was defined as “a fireworks sky” and was chosen to celebrate Hubble’s 25th anniversary.
NGC 6751. NASA opened the 20th century with the composition of this planetary nebula located in the Aquila constellation, about 6500 light years away from Earth. The nebula is made up of the stellar wind and radiation from the central star. The current diameter of NGC 6751 is 600 times that of the solar system.
Arp 273. Composition chosen to celebrate Hubble’s 21st anniversary. It shows a group of spiral galaxies located 300 million light years away in the Andromeda constellation. The smallest galaxy shows signs of active star formation in its nucleus and is thought to have passed through the largest galaxy seen in the image.
Horse Head 2. More detailed the beautiful nebula that is part of the Orion constellation in a composition published for the 23rd anniversary.
Carina 2. We end with another composition of the Carina nebula because it is one of the most beautiful created by NASA with images from the Hubble telescope when it celebrated the first 20 years in space. We speak of the mythical image “the pillars of creation” where the stars are born.
And for the future: «James Webb»
Jointly built and operated by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, James Webb will be the successor to Hubble and will deliver resolution and sensitivity unprecedented in the history of cosmology. In astronomy size does matter.
The telescope will have 18 hexagons to form the 6.5 meter primary mirror, almost triple that of Hubble. It is so large that we have no space launchers ready and so the hexagons will deploy once the telescope is opened in orbit. Another gigantic element is the parasol. Responsible for protecting the assembly and keeping mirrors and scientific instruments at temperatures close to absolute zero will be the size from a tennis court.
James Webb will also have another group of secondary and tertiary mirrors to eliminate optical aberrations, and an additional steering mirror, which can automatically adjust its position several times per second to provide image stabilization. The project will have a final cost close to 10,000 million dollars and it is expected to put it on the market on March 21, 2021. with ambitious goals: to capture the formation of the first galaxies after the Big Bang; the search for chemical footprints of life and the observation of the most promising group of exoplanets.