NASA’s Hubble space telescope has turned 28 and to mark the occasion, the telescope team has rolled out two new, mind-blowing images of the Lagoon Nebula.
Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, as part of a joint collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The two space agencies turned Hubble towards the Lagoon Nebula on Thursday, April 19, and shared the stunning images captured. The pictures were taken on February 12 and February 18 using the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3.
Located 4,000 light-years away from Earth in the Sagittarius constellation, the Lagoon Nebula is 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall. The celestial body is almost three times the size of the moon. It is even visible to the naked eye in clear, dark skies.
Notably, Hubble could capture only a small fraction of the total nebula due to its massive size. This image is only about four light-years across, but it shows stunning details. Nebula like many stellar nurseries boasts many large, hot stars.
The Hubble telescope was able to peep into the center of the nebula and capture a giant star, referred to as Herschel 36, exploding and releasing radiation and winds inside the nebula. Herschel 36. Herschel 36 is about 32 times more massive than the sun and nine times its diameter.
The massive star is 40,000 times hotter and 200,000 times brighter than the sun. It is only about 1 million years old, and is expected to live in its current phase for another 5 million years, given its mass. The picture in question covers an area that measures 4 light-years across.
NASA has also released a YouTube video which zooms into the center of the stellar nursery, Nebula, unfolding “the universe’s extraordinary stellar tapestry of birth and destruction.”
NASA is planning to launch the Hubble successor, dubbed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) sometime in 2020.