Space

Hubble's take on the Messier catalog is stunning to behold

The famous Sombrero galaxy (M104) is located 28 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo
The famous Sombrero galaxy (M104) is located 28 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo
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The famous Crab Nebula was the first object to be included in the Messier catalog
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The famous Crab Nebula was the first object to be included in the Messier catalog
The Lagoon Nebula, as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope
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The Lagoon Nebula, as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope
M16, or The Pillars of Creation, is one of the most famous astronomical objects contained within the Messier catalog 
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M16, or The Pillars of Creation, is one of the most famous astronomical objects contained within the Messier catalog 
Hubble mosaic of the Andromeda galaxy - the Milky Way's closest neighbor 
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Hubble mosaic of the Andromeda galaxy - the Milky Way's closest neighbor 
M42, otherwise known as the Orion Nebula, is a region of intense star formation
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M42, otherwise known as the Orion Nebula, is a region of intense star formation
A Hubble mosaic of the Whirlpool galaxy (M51)
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A Hubble mosaic of the Whirlpool galaxy (M51)
A colorized view of M57 - the bright planetary nebula also known as the Ring Nebula
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A colorized view of M57 - the bright planetary nebula also known as the Ring Nebula
Hubble mosaic of the Sunflower galaxy (M63), which is located 27 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici
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Hubble mosaic of the Sunflower galaxy (M63), which is located 27 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici
Hubble view of the Black Eye galaxy (M64)
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Hubble view of the Black Eye galaxy (M64)
An image of the spiral galaxy M66 composed of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope
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An image of the spiral galaxy M66 composed of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope
Messier 74 is located roughly 32 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Pisces
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Messier 74 is located roughly 32 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Pisces
Hubble view of M83, otherwise known as the Southern Pinwheel galaxy
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Hubble view of M83, otherwise known as the Southern Pinwheel galaxy
The spiral galaxy M94 is located 16 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Canes Venatici
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The spiral galaxy M94 is located 16 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Canes Venatici
Infrared and visible light image of the spiral galaxy M96, which is located some 35 million light-years from Earth
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Infrared and visible light image of the spiral galaxy M96, which is located some 35 million light-years from Earth
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Hubble image of the Spindle galaxy (M102), imaged almost edge on from the telescope
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Hubble image of the Spindle galaxy (M102), imaged almost edge on from the telescope
The famous Sombrero galaxy (M104) is located 28 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo
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The famous Sombrero galaxy (M104) is located 28 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo
Hubble mosaic of M107, which is one of roughly 150 globular clusters embedded in the disk of the Milky Way
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Hubble mosaic of M107, which is one of roughly 150 globular clusters embedded in the disk of the Milky Way
M11, also known as the Wild Duck Cluster, is an open star cluster located 6,200 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Scutum
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M11, also known as the Wild Duck Cluster, is an open star cluster located 6,200 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Scutum

NASA has released a breathtaking gallery of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, showcasing celestial objects contained in the Messier catalog. The Messier collection was initially compiled by renowned French astronomer Charles Messier, using his own observations and those of his associates to help fellow 18th century astronomers differentiate wandering comets from more distant, static objects, such as nebulae.

The catalog contains a variety of some of the most famous astronomical objects known to adorn the night sky, from active star formation regions, such as the Orion Nebula, to the Andromeda galaxy, which will merge with our own Milky Way in roughly four billion years.

Messier objects are a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers alike, as whilst they can be viewed in stunning detail through more powerful telescopes, the subjects are often bright enough to be picked out by smaller, cheaper instruments. Predictably, Hubble's observations of Messier objects are, well, just ridiculous.

The famous Crab Nebula was the first object to be included in the Messier catalog
The famous Crab Nebula was the first object to be included in the Messier catalog

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, and, following a dramatic repair mission, has proceeded to capture incredible imagery and data that has allowed scientists to unravel the secrets of a universe filled with fascinating astronomical phenomena.

The telescope observes its target by taking multiple monochrome images, each capturing a single wavelength of light, which can be combined to create a more comprehensive and complete view of a celestial object.

Some images will not contain the full spectrum of visible light, or wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye, such as ultraviolet and infrared light. In these cases, particular wavelengths are assigned a color that allows scientists to visualise the characteristics of an object that would otherwise remain unseen.

Hubble view of the Black Eye galaxy (M64)
Hubble view of the Black Eye galaxy (M64)

To date, Hubble has observed 93 of the 110 Messier objects in incredible detail. The newly released gallery contains images of 63 Messier objects, with the agency planning to further expand the collection as more Hubble images are processed.

Fittingly, the release of the gallery has been timed to coincide with the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs each year as Earth passes through the trail of debris left in the wake of Halley's Comet after its 1986 Journey through the inner solar system.

Be sure to go out over the next few days after nightfall, and experience some "shooting stars" for yourself!

Take a look in the gallery to see some of the highlights from Hubble's take on the Messier catalog.

Source: NASA

3 comments
Bob
There is just something about colorizing celestial object photos that I find distasteful. While it does show more detail to show wavelengths that are invisible to the naked eye, the colorizing makes it seem so fake. This is not what things would really look like if we were flying past in a star ship and looking out the port hole or even looking at them through our own amateur telescopes here on earth. I have already seen enough imaginary artist renderings that in no way could really exist trying to prove some preconceived theory. Maybe I am the only one who doesn't like it.
windykites
Yes Bob, I tend to agree. In normal eyesight these images probably look like shades of grey. In a way, it's a bit like discovering that Santa does not exist. There is a sense of disillusionment. Let's not tell everyone.
Don Duncan
Bob & windykites: If it enhances understanding I favor choosing to color what appears drab/unseen to the naked eye in space. Objecting is like complaining that using a telescope or binoculars is "cheating" because the naked eye sees it differently. Enhancing our senses with technology enhances our understanding and enjoyment. That is win-win. That's not fake or distasteful.
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