In March 2003, Saturn’s rings were at maximum tilt toward Earth, a special event occurring every 15 years. With the rings fully tilted, astronomers get the best views of the planet’s Southern Hemisphere. They took advantage of the rings’ unique alignment by using Hubble to capture some stunning images.
In the first and third images above, Hubble is seen undergoing testing at Goddard. The first photo is Hubble in the Vertical Assembly and Test Area and the second is Hubble undergoing final assembly at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California plant.
For more on Hubble’s 25th anniversary, click here.
Messier 83 is not one to blend into the background. Located some 15 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent), it is one of the most conspicuous galaxies of its type in our skies. This striking spiral displays a phenomenon known as a double nucleus — a feature that has also been spotted in the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy to us. This does not mean that Messier 83 contains two central black holes, but that its single supermassive black hole may be ringed by a lopsided disc of stars, which orbits around the black hole and creates the appearance of a dual core
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, (STScI/AURA), W. Blair (STScI/JHU), NOAO
Happy 25 years to the Hubble Space Telescope! The largest orbital telescope ever launched was deployed on April 25, 1990, during the mission of STS-31 Discovery. Launch occurred the day prior, on 24 April.
Although the telescope’s optics were flawed upon arrival into orbit, Servicing Mission 1 installed corrective lenses that allowed the telescope to return some of the most spectacular imagery ever returned from space.
The telescope is expected to be operational until at least the mid 2020′s.
The galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once normal, sedate spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, the pair have spent the past few hundred million years sparring with one another. This clash is so violent that stars have been ripped from their host galaxies to form a streaming arc between the two. In wide-field images of the pair the reason for their name becomes clear — far-flung stars and streamers of gas stretch out into space, creating long tidal tails reminiscent of antennae.
This new image of the Antennae Galaxies shows obvious signs of chaos. Clouds of gas are seen in bright pink and red, surrounding the bright flashes of blue star-forming regions — some of which are partially obscured by dark patches of dust. The rate of star formation is so high that the Antennae Galaxies are said to be in a state of starburst, a period in which all of the gas within the galaxies is being used to form stars. This cannot last forever and neither can the separate galaxies; eventually the nuclei will coalesce, and the galaxies will begin their retirement together as one large elliptical galaxy.