Hubble's Best Images: A Top 10
On Monday, May 11th, Space Shuttle Atlantis with its seven-member crew launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. In this article, we will look at some of the best images that Hubble has produced since it's launch in 1990 and what they mean for astronomers.
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The Pillars of Creation
The Spectacular "Pillars of Creation" are a portion of the much larger Eagle Nebula (Messier Object M16). This stunning image was taken in 1995 and subsequent analysis and X-ray imaging show that the pillars consist of star-forming gas and dust within the nebula where new stars are created.
Cat's Eye Nebula
The Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC6543) is a planetary nebula in the constellation of Draco. Structurally, it is one of the most complex nebulae known, with high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope images revealing remarkable structures such as knots, jets and sinewy arc-like features. NGC6543 was originally discovered by William Herschel in 1786 and later imaged by Hubble in 2004.
The Cone Nebula
The Cone Nebula is a famous nebula in the Orion Arm surrounding the NGC 2264 star cluster. The 'cone' is a triangular dark structure near the bottom of the nebula. The shape is probably caused by gas flowing outwards from young stars located near to the apex of the cone.
The Crab Nebula
The 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 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans. This composite image was assembled from 24 individual exposures taken with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. It is one of the largest images taken by Hubble and is the highest resolution image ever made of the entire Crab Nebula.
You can view the highest resolution image in a zoomable format on HubbleSite.
The "Evil Eye" Galaxy M64
Fine details of the dark band are revealed in this image of the central portion of M64 obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. M64 is well known among amateur astronomers because of its appearance in small telescopes. It was first catalogued in the 18th century by the French astronomer Messier. Located in the northern constellation Coma Berenices, M64 resides roughly 17 million light-years from Earth.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
The famous Ultra Deep Field consists of over 800, 1200 second exposures totalling just under 1 million seconds. The images were taken over a period of 11 days between September 24th, 2003 and January 16th, 2004. The resulting image reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe. The image reveals over 10,000 galaxies within an area just 11 arcminutes in diameter with is 1/10th the size of the Moon and equivalent to a 1mm by 1mm square of paper held 1 meter away.
Hubble doesn't just look out at the deep space, it also images the planets within our own solar system. This image of Saturn was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 during October 1996.
Gravitational Lensing in Galaxy Cluster Abell 2218
Abell 2218 is a spectacular example of gravitational lensing. The arc-like pattern spread across the picture like a spider web is an illusion caused by the huge gravitational field of the cluster. This provides a powerful "zoom lens" for viewing galaxies that are so far away they could not normally be observed with the largest available telescopes.
Hubble's Sharpest View of the Orion Nebula
This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
Last updated on: Wednesday 24th January 2018
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