OH, STAR STUFF’S HUBBLE FAVORITES
Over the past 25 years, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations and generated a staggering 100 terabytes of data. Narrowing down my favorite image is nearly impossible but I’ve managed to highlight a few.
The Eagle Nebula
I’m not sure Hubble has produced a more majestic image than this one of the Eagle Nebula. This image shows the famous “Pillars of Creation” and the nebula’s multi-colored glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-colored elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Peering back to nearly the beginning of time, this image shakes me at my core and illustrates the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos. This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep” core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old.
The galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once spiral galaxies similar to our own 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. 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 is a preview of what might happen when our Milky Way galaxy collides with the approaching Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.
The Tarantula Nebula
About 170,000 light-years away, is a turbulent star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud called the Tarantula Nebula. It is so close to Earth that Hubble can make out individual stars. It is home to many extreme conditions including supernova remnants and the heaviest star ever found, R136a1. The Tarantula Nebula is the most luminous nebula of its type in the local Universe as a result of the raucous stellar breeding ground located at its heart known as 30 Doradus.
The Helix Nebula, located 690 light-years from Earth, is a ball of glowing gas expelled from a dying sun-like star. This image is a composite of a photograph taken by Hubble in 2002 and one by a telescope in Chile in 2003. The object is so large that both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view. It resembles a simple doughnut as seen from Earth but new evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two gaseous disks nearly perpendicular to each other.