Cosmic Reef: Hubble Space Telescope releases a ‘breathtaking’ new image of a giant nebula ablaze with new stars being born to mark its 30th anniversary

  • Hubble was launched by NASA on the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990 
  • Hubble takes an ‘anniversary image’ every year and this year captured a nebulae 
  • It captured two colourful  star forming regions in the Large Magellanic Cloud 

To mark its 30th anniversary the Hubble Space Telescope team have released a stunning new image captured by the satellite showing a vast star-forming region.

Named the ‘tapestry of blazing starbirth’, the new image brings together the nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbour NGC 2020 – both about 163,000 light years from Earth.

They are part of the Milky Way satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud and the image ha been nicknamed the ‘Cosmic Reef’ as it looks like an undersea world.

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990 on the Space Shuttle Discovery and has ‘revolutionised modern astronomy’, according to the European Space Agency.

This image is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed during its 30-year lifetime

This wide-field view captures the pair of nebulae NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 in the constellation of Dorado. These two glowing clouds of gas, in the centre of the frame, are located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies

‘The Hubble Space Telescope has shaped the imagination of truly a whole generation, inspiring not only scientists, but almost everybody,’ said Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.  

So far in its 30 year mission, the joint NASA and ESA space telescope has made 1.4 million observations and led to 17,000 research papers.

‘It is one of the most prolific space observatories in history and its rich data archive will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come,’ ESA wrote.

Each year, Hubble has a small portion of its precious observing time dedicated to taking a special anniversary image, showcasing particularly beautiful objects. 

These observations continue to challenge scientists with surprising new findings and to fascinate the public with ever more evocative images. 

This year it has marked 30 years of discovery with a portrait of two colourful nebulae showing how massive stars are able to sculpt their homes of gas and dust.

Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separate in the visible-light image taken by Hubble, they are actually part of one giant star formation complex. 

The star-forming regions  are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun. 

These stars have short lives of only a few million years, compared to the 10-billion-year lifetime of our Sun. 

‘The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, hefty stars near the centre of the image that has blown away its cocoon of hydrogen gas (coloured red) and dust in which it was born,’ wrote ESA.

This artists impression shows the Hubble Space Telescope floating above the Earth. In its 30 years it has led to the creation of thousands of research papers

‘A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster is illuminating the landscape around it.’ 

These massive stars also unleash fierce winds that are eroding the gas cloud above and to the right of them. 

The gas in these areas is less dense, making it easier for the stellar winds to blast through them, creating bubble-like structures reminiscent of brain coral.

Hubble is due to be replaced in the coming years by the James Webb Space Telescope – another ESA and NASA joint project. 

NASAs Hubble Space Telescope is still working and has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.

He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so – now coined the Hubble constant. 

The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers.

It orbits Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude.

Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head on a dime roughly 200 miles (320km) away.

The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time

Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.

Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope. 

Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same. 

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