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Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time (6 Photos)

Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time (6 Photos)

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All images courtesy of NASA.

The core of the spectacular globular cluster Omega Centauri glitters with the combined light of 2 million stars. The entire cluster contains 10 million stars, and is among the biggest and most massive of some two hundred globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way galaxy. Globular clusters are ancient swarms of stars united by gravity.

This image and caption, and those that follow, are from the recently released Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time by Edward J. Weiler, published by Abrams in collaboration with NASA to mark the 20th anniversary of the April 24, 1990, launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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This sweeping panorama, 300 light-years in width, is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the core of our Milky Way galaxy. It offers a nearby laboratory for how massive stars form and influence their environment in the often-violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. The galactic core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. This view combines the sharp imaging of Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey done with it’s Infrared Astronomy Camera (IRAC). The NICMOS mosaic required 144 Hubble orbits to make 2,304 exposures.

89979_Hubble_STScI_2006_01q_sizedThis magnificent image from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes shows the Orion Nebula in an explosion of infrared, ultraviolet, and visible-light colors. It was “painted” by hundreds of baby stars on a canvas of gas and dust, with intense ultraviolet light and strong stellar winds as brushes. At the heart of the nebula, in the brightest part of the image, is a group of monstrously massive stars, collectively called the Trapezium. Located 1,500 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula is the brightest “star” in the sword of the Hunter constellation.

89979_Hubble_STScI_2005_37a_sizedThe Crab Nebula is a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly one thousand years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans. The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula, which has a mass equivalent to the Sun crammed into a rapidly spinning ball of neutrons 12 miles across, is the dynamo powering the nebula’s eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star.

89979_Hubble_STScI_2003_16_sizedRemnants from a star that exploded thousands of years ago created a celestial abstract portrait called the Pencil Nebula. Officially known as NGC 2736, the Pencil Nebula is part of the huge Vela supernova remnant, located in the southern constellation Vela. Discovered by Sir John Herschel in the 1840s, the nebula’s shape suggests that it is part of the supernova shock wave that recently a region of dense gas. It is this interaction that causes the nebula to glow, appearing like a rippled sheet.

89979_Hubble_sts061_98_050_sizedAstronaut F. Story Musgrave, anchored on the end of the Space Shuttle’s Remote Manipulator System arm, prepares to be elevated to the top of the towering Hubble Space Telescope to install protective covers on the magnetometers. Astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman (bottom of frame) assisted Musgrave with final servicing tasks on the telescope.

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