Hubble images Bubble Nebula to celebrate an eventful 26 years in orbit
Astronomers haveselected a dramatic image of the "Bubble Nebula", otherwiseknown as NGC 7635 to celebrate the 26th anniversary of thelaunch of the Hubble Space Telescope. The gracefully ageing telescopeis still in excellent shape despite over a quarter of a century ofactive service, and continues to provide invaluable contributions tomankind's exploration of the cosmos.
The seven-light-year-wide nebula imaged to mark Hubble's launch anniversary is located inthe Cassiopeia constellation, some 7,100 light-years from Earth.Hubble targeted the structure in February 2016, capturing it inexquisite detail in the visible light spectrum with its Wide-FieldCamera-3 instrument.
At the heart of thebubble lies a monstrous star, which is estimated to be roughly 45times the mass of our Sun, whilst only being four million years ofage. The massive but short lived star is expected to meet its end ina dramatic supernova explosion some 10 – 20 million years from now.
The array of colorsrepresented in the image are the result of different gasses beingheated to varying temperatures. Blue represents oxygen, red fornitrogen, and green for hydrogen. Farther out from the star, a yellowpillar can be observed, consisting of a mixture of hydrogen andnitrogen.
The distinctive bubbleshape is created as gas shed from the surface of the star is blownout by powerful stellar winds moving at speeds in excess of fourmillion miles per hour. The discarded gas continues outward until itcomes in to contact with the colder interstellar gas surrounding thestar.
Once met with thisresistance, layer upon layer of the stellar material has combinedover time to form the distinctive bubble shape we observe today.Denser regions of cold gas on one side of the star have caused thereddish stellar giant to appear off-centre with the surroundingbubble.
"As Hubble makes its26th revolution around our home star, the sun, we celebrate the eventwith a spectacular image of a dynamic and exciting interaction of ayoung star with its environment," states John Grunsfeld, associateadministrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington,D.C, who crewed two separate shuttle missions to service thetelescope. "The view of the Bubble Nebula, crafted from WFC-3images, reminds us that Hubble gives us a front row seat to the aweinspiring universe we live in."
Scroll down for a video taking the viewer on a brief flight toward the Bubble Nebula.