wide field camera 3

Centaurus A

Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, is well known for its dramatic dusty lanes of dark material. Hubble’s new observations, using its most advanced instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, are the most detailed ever made of this galaxy. They have been combined here in a multi-wavelength image which reveals never-before-seen detail in the dusty portion of the galaxy.

Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble 

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The final frontier of the Frontier Fields

The NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope has peered across six billion light years of space to resolve extremely faint features of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 that have not been seen before. Imaged here in stunning detail, Abell 370 is part of the Frontier Fields programme which uses massive galaxy clusters to study the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe.

Six billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster), Abell 370 is made up of hundreds of galaxies [1]. Already in the mid-1980s higher-resolution images of the cluster showed that the giant luminous arc in the lower left of the image was not a curious structure within the cluster, but rather an astrophysical phenomenon: the gravitationally lensed image of a galaxy twice as far away as the cluster itself. Hubble helped show that this arc is composed of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that just happens to lie behind the cluster.

Abell 370’s enormous gravitational influence warps the shape of spacetime around it, causing the light of background galaxies to spread out along multiple paths and appear both distorted and magnified. The effect can be seen as a series of streaks and arcs curving around the centre of the image. Massive galaxy clusters can therefore act like natural telescopes, giving astronomers a close-up view of the very distant galaxies behind the cluster — a glimpse of the Universe in its infancy, only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

This image of Abell 370 was captured as part of the Frontier Fields programme, which used a whopping 630 hours of Hubble observing time, over 560 orbits of the Earth. Six clusters of galaxies were imaged in exquisite detail, including Abell 370 which was the very last one to be finished. An earlier image of this object — using less observation time and therefore not recording such faint detail — was published in 2009.

During the cluster observations, Hubble also looked at six “parallel fields”, regions near the galaxy clusters which were imaged with the same exposure times as the clusters themselves. Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The Frontier Fields programme produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters and the magnified galaxies behind them. These observations are helping astronomers understand how stars and galaxies emerged out of the dark ages of the Universe, when space was dark, opaque, and filled with hydrogen.

Studying massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 also helps with measuring the distribution of normal matter and dark matter within such clusters [heic1506]. By studying its lensing properties, astronomers have determined that Abell 370 contains two large, separate clumps of dark matter, contributing to the evidence that this massive galaxy cluster is actually the result of two smaller clusters merging together.

Now that the observations for the Frontier Fields programme are complete, astronomers can use the full dataset to explore the clusters, their gravitational lensing effects and the magnified galaxies from the early Universe in full detail.

Notes
[1] Galaxy clusters are the most massive structures in the Universe that are held together by gravity, generally thought to have formed when smaller groups of galaxies smashed into each other in ever-bigger cosmic collisions. Such clusters can contain up to 1000 galaxies, along with hot intergalactic gas that often shines brightly at X-ray wavelengths, all bound together primarily by the gravity of dark matter.

TOP IMAGE….With the final observation of the distant galaxy cluster Abell 370 — some five billion light-years away — the Frontier Fields program came to an end. Abell 370 is one of the very first galaxy clusters in which astronomers observed the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, the warping of spacetime by the cluster’s gravitational field that distorts the light from galaxies lying far behind it. This manifests as arcs and streaks in the picture, which are the stretched images of background galaxies. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, HST Frontier Fields


CENTRE IMAGE….While one eye of Hubble was observing its main target, the massive galaxy cluster Abell 370, the second eye — another instrument — was looking at a part of the sky right next to the cluster. Although not as spectacular as the light-bending clusters, these parallel fields are as deep as the main images and can even compete with the famous Hubble Deep Field as regards depth. They are therefore a valuable tool for studying the evolution of galaxies from the early epochs of the Universe until today. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, HST Frontier Fields


LOWER IMAGE….This image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). The field of view is approximately 2.2 x 2.2 degrees. Credit: NASA, ESA and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.


BOTTOM IMAGE….This image of Abell 370 was released in 2009. Compared to the new image, which contains more observation time, less structures are visible and faint objects have disappeared — the new image has increased the depth of the image dramatically, clearly showing the benefit of additional observation time. A direct comparison between both images can be seen here. Credit: ESA/Hubble

Although galaxy formation and evolution are still far from being fully understood, the conditions we see within certain galaxies – such as so-called starburst galaxies  – can tell us a lot about how they have evolved over time. Starburst galaxies contain a region (or many regions) where stars are forming at such a breakneck rate that the galaxy is eating up its gas supply faster than it can be replenished!

NGC 4536 is such a galaxy, captured here in beautiful detail by the Hubble?s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Located roughly 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), it is a hub of extreme star formation. There are several different factors that can lead to such an ideal environment in which stars can form at such a rapid rate. Crucially, there has to be a sufficiently massive supply of gas. This might be acquired in a number of ways – for example by passing very close to another galaxy, in a full-blown galactic collision, or as a result of some event that forces lots of gas into a relatively small space.

Star formation leaves a few tell-tale fingerprints, so astronomers can tell where stars have been born. We know that starburst regions are rich in gas. Young stars in these extreme environments often live fast and die young, burning extremely hot and exhausting their gas supplies fairly quickly. These stars also emit huge amounts of intense ultraviolet light, which blasts the electrons off any atoms of hydrogen lurking nearby (a process called ionization), leaving behind often colorful clouds of ionized hydrogen (known in astronomer-speak as HII regions).

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Text Credit: European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

Time And Space

This delicate shell, photographed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, appears to float serenely in the depths of space, but this apparent calm hides an inner turmoil. The gaseous envelope formed as the expanding blast wave and ejected material from a supernova tore through the nearby interstellar medium. Called SNR B0509-67.5 (or SNR 0509 for short), the bubble is the visible remnant of a powerful stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160 000 light-years from Earth. Ripples in the shell’s surface may be caused either by subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or possibly be driven from the interior by fragments from the initial explosion. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 18 million km/h.

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys observed the supernova remnant on 28 October 2006 with a filter that isolates light from the glowing hydrogen seen in the expanding shell. These observations were then combined with visible-light images of the surrounding star field that were imaged with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on 4 November 2010.

Credit:

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgement: J. Hughes (Rutgers University)

Hubble Spots Two Interacting Galaxies Defying Cosmic Convention

Some galaxies are harder to classify than others. Here, Hubble’s trusty Wide Field Camera 3 has captured a striking view of two interacting galaxies located some 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo. 
The more diffuse and patchy blue glow covering the right side of the frame is known as NGC 3447 — sometimes NGC 3447B for clarity, as the name NGC 3447 can apply to the overall duo. The smaller clump to the upper left is known as NGC 3447A. 

Messier 83

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp “eye” of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble

May 11th, 2009 - OV-104 Atlantis departs from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A on a final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). STS-125 would be the only mission Atlantis would visit the HST - prior servicing missions were done by Discovery twice, with Columbia and Endeavour each once.

Upgrades to HST included the Cosmic Origins Spectograph, the Wide Field Camera 3 which can record different wavelengths of light, and a device called the Soft-Capture Mechanism, which will be used by a future craft to safely de-orbit Hubble at the end of its life span. HST is expected to continue to operate well into the 2030s.

STS-125 was unique in that it is one of a few missions that had two full Shuttle stacks on the launch pad at the same time. Any damage sustained from the launch that prevented Atlantis from returning home meant that she would be stuck in orbit with only three weeks of supplies. A rescue mission was specifically developed for STS-125, as the low inclination orbit of the HST meant that the International Space Station would effectively be out of reach of Atlantis and her crew.

In the event of Atlantis suffering damage, STS-400 would launch up to the crippled shuttle and extract the crew for a safe return home. OV-105 Endeavour was placed on stand-by at LC-39B until May 21st, after Atlantis was deemed safe to return home, and was released to begin processing for STS-127.

Atlantis and crew would return home May 24th, landing at Edwards Air Force Base - the weather in Florida deemed unsatisfactory for landing the orbiter. STS-125 had five successful EVAs, orbited the Earth 197 times, and featured the first Tweet from space by Astronaut Michael Massimino which read, “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!

STS-125 was another shuttle mission to feature an IMAX camera, used to document the life of HST and the views of the universe it has brought to us. IMAX: Hubble 3D was released in 2010 and features the launch of STS-125. 

The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble : The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earths night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying stars nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescopes Wide Field Camera 3, and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot stars dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion . via NASA

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Of all the varieties of exploding stars, the ones called Type Ia are perhaps the most intriguing. Their predictable brightness lets astronomers measure the expansion of the universe, which led to the discovery of dark energy. Yet the cause of these supernovae remains a mystery. Do they happen when two white dwarf stars collide? Or does a single white dwarf gorge on gases stolen from a companion star until bursting?

If the second theory is true, the normal star should survive. Astronomers used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to search the gauzy remains of a Type Ia supernova in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. They found a sun-like star that showed signs of being associated with the supernova. Further investigations will be needed to learn if this star is truly the culprit behind a white dwarf’s fiery demise.

This image, taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, shows the supernova remnant SNR 0509-68.7, also known as N103B. It is located 160,000 light-years from Earth in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. N103B resulted from a Type Ia supernova, whose cause remains a mystery. One possibility would leave behind a stellar survivor, and astronomers have identified a possible candidate.

The actual supernova remnant is the irregular shaped dust cloud, at the upper center of the image. The gas in the lower half of the image and the dense concentration of stars in the lower left are the outskirts of the star cluster NGC 1850.

The Hubble image combines visible and near-infrared light taken by the Wide Field Camera 3 in June 2014.

Image credit:andnbsp;NASA, ESA and H.-Y. Chu (Academia Sinica, Taipei)
Text: Space Telescope Science Institute
Media contact: Rob Gutro, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Hubble Space Telescope

Time And Space

This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination. The NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.

This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The image celebrated the 20th anniversary of Hubble’s launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth.

Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionized gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation much like a towering butte in Utah’s Monument Valley withstands erosion by water and wind.

Nestled inside this dense mountain are fledgling stars. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions off the pedestal at the top of the image. Another pair of jets is visible at another peak near the center of the image. These jets (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) are the signpost for new star birth. The jets are launched by swirling disks around the young stars, which allow material to slowly accrete onto the stars’ surfaces.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on Feb. 1-2, 2010. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).

Object Names: HH 901, HH 902

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Time And Space

Revisiting an icon: Hubble captures the Pillars of Creation twenty years on

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured many breathtaking images of the Universe, but one snapshot stands out from the rest: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. In 1995 Hubble’s iconic image revealed never-before-seen details in the giant columns and now the telescope is kickstarting its 25th year in orbit with an even clearer, and more stunning, image of these beautiful structures.

The three impressive towers of gas and dust captured in this image are part of the Eagle Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 16. Although such features are not uncommon in star-forming regions, the Messier 16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative ever captured. The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps.

Now Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks with the newer Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009. The visible-light image builds on one of the most iconic astronomy images ever taken and provides astronomers with an even sharper and wider view.

In addition to this new visible-light image, Hubble has also produced a bonus image. This image is taken in infrared light, which penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars, transforming them into wispy silhouettes set against a background peppered with stars. Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.

Although the original image was dubbed the “Pillars of Creation”, this new image hints that they are also pillars of destruction. The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars in the visible-light view is material that is being heated by bright young stars and evaporating away.

With these new images come better contrast and clearer views of the region. Astronomers can use these new images to study how the physical structure of the pillars is changing over time. The infrared image shows that the reason the pillars exist is because the very ends of them are dense, and they shadow the gas below them, creating the long, pillar-like structures. The gas in between the pillars has long since been blown away by the winds from a nearby star cluster.

At the top edge of the left-hand pillar, a gaseous fragment has been heated up and is flying away from the structure, highlighting the violent nature of star-forming regions.

These massive stars may be slowly destroying the pillars but they are also the reason Hubble sees the structures at all. They radiate enough ultraviolet light to illuminate the area and make the clouds of oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur glow.

Image credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

The spectacular new camera installed on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp “eye” of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

The image, taken in August 2009, provides a close-up view of the myriad stars near the galaxy’s core, the bright whitish region at far right.

WFC3’s broad wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared, reveals stars at different stages of evolution, allowing astronomers to dissect the galaxy’s star-formation history.

The image reveals in unprecedented detail the current rapid rate of star birth in this famous “grand design” spiral galaxy. The newest generations of stars are forming largely in clusters on the edges of the dark dust lanes, the backbone of the spiral arms. These fledgling stars, only a few million years old, are bursting out of their dusty cocoons and producing bubbles of reddish glowing hydrogen gas.

The excavated regions give a colorful “Swiss cheese” appearance to the spiral arm. Gradually, the young stars’ fierce winds (streams of charged particles) blow away the gas, revealing bright blue star clusters. These stars are about 1 million to 10 million years old. The older populations of stars are not as blue.

A bar of stars, gas, and dust slicing across the core of the galaxy may be instigating most of the star birth in the galaxy’s core. The bar funnels material to the galaxy’s center, where the most active star formation is taking place. The brightest star clusters reside along an arc near the core.

The remains of about 60 supernova blasts, the deaths of massive stars, can be seen in the image, five times more than known previously in this region. WFC3 identified the remnants of exploded stars. By studying these remnants, astronomers can better understand the nature of the progenitor stars, which are responsible for the creation and dispersal of most of the galaxy’s heavy elements.

M83, located in the Southern Hemisphere, is often compared to M51, dubbed the Whirlpool galaxy, in the Northern Hemisphere. Located 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra, M83 is two times closer to Earth than M51.

Object Name: M83

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Acknowledgment: R. O'Connell (University of Virginia) and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee

Time And Space

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out : In the center of star-forming region 30 Doradus lies a huge cluster containing some of the largest, hottest, and most massive stars known. These stars, known collectively as star cluster R136, were captured in the featured image in visible light by the Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 peering through the Hubble Space Telescope. Gas and dust clouds in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, have been sculpted into elongated shapes by powerful winds and ultraviolet radiation from these hot cluster stars. The 30 Doradus Nebula lies within a neighboring galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud and is located a mere 170,000 light-years away. via NASA

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Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars looks like an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust—the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603.

This environment is not as peaceful as it looks. Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds have blown out an enormous cavity in the gas and dust enveloping the cluster, providing an unobstructed view of the cluster.

Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The course of a star’s life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the most massive stars known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning through their hydrogen fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in supernova explosions.

Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant universe. Astronomers also use massive clusters to study distant starbursts that occur when galaxies collide, igniting a flurry of star formation. The proximity of NGC 3603 makes it an excellent lab for studying such distant and momentous events.

This Hubble Space Telescope image was captured in August 2009 and December 2009 with the Wide Field Camera 3 in both visible and infrared light, which trace the glow of sulfur, hydrogen, and iron.

Object Name: NGC 3603

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 Image detailing star birth in Galaxy M83.


Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgement: R O'Connel and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee

This close-up, visible-light view by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals new details of the Ring Nebula.

The object is tilted toward Earth so that astronomers see the ring face-on. The Hubble observations reveal that the nebula’s shape is more complicated than astronomers thought. The blue gas in the nebula’s center is actually a football-shaped structure that pierces the red doughnut-shaped material. Hubble also uncovers the detailed structure of the dark, irregular knots of dense gas embedded along the inner rim of the ring. The knots look like spokes in a bicycle. The Hubble images have allowed the research team to match up the knots with the spikes of light around the bright, main ring, which are a shadow effect.

The Ring Nebula is a well-known planetary nebula, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star. The tiny white dot in the center of the nebula is the star’s hot core, called a white dwarf.

The nebula is about 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra. The structure measures roughly one light-year across.

The Hubble observations were taken Sept. 19, 2011, by the Wide Field Camera 3. In the image, the deep blue color in the center represents helium; the cyan color of the inner ring is the glow of hydrogen and oxygen; and the reddish color of the outer ring is from nitrogen and sulfur.

Object Names: Ring Nebula, M57, NGC 6720

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Time And Space

Hubble spies NGC 3274

This image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3274 comes courtesy of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Hubble’s WFC3 vision spreads from the ultraviolet light through to the near infrared , allowing astronomers to study a wide range of targets, from nearby star formation through to galaxies in the most remote regions of the cosmos.

This particular image combines observations gathered in five different filters, bringing together ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light to show off NGC 3274 in all its glory. As with all of the data Hubble sends back to Earth, it takes advantage of the telescope’s location in space above our planet’s distorting atmosphere. WFC3 returns clear, crisp, and detailed images time after time.

NGC 3274 is a relatively faint galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). The galaxy was discovered by Wilhelm Herschel in 1783. The galaxy PGC 213714 is also visible on the upper right of the frame, located much further away from Earth.

Hubble unveils a colourful view of the universe

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have captured the most comprehensive picture ever assembled of the evolving Universe — and one of the most colourful. The study is called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF) project.

Prior to this survey, astronomers were in a curious position. They knew a lot about star formation occurring in nearby galaxies thanks to UV telescope facilities such as NASA's Galex observatory, which operated from 2003 to 2013. And, thanks to Hubble’s near-infrared and visible capability, they had also studied star birth in the most distant galaxies. We see these distant galaxies in their most primitive stages due to the vast amount of time it takes their light to reach us.

However, between 5 and 10 billion light-years away from us — corresponding to a time period when most of the stars in the Universe were born — there was a lack of the data needed to fully understand star formation. The hottest, most massive and youngest stars, which emit light in the ultraviolet, were often neglected as subjects of direct observation, leaving a significant gap in our knowledge of the cosmic timeline.

The addition of ultraviolet data to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 gives astronomers access to direct observations of regions of unobscured star formation and may help us to fully understand how stars formed. By observing at these wavelengths, researchers get a direct look at which galaxies are forming stars and, just as importantly, where the stars are forming. This enables astronomers to understand how galaxies like the Milky Way grew in size from small collections of very hot stars to the massive structures they are today.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)

The Bubble Nebula is 7 light-years across — about one-and-a-half times the distance from our sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri — and resides 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia.

The seething star forming this nebula is 45 times more massive than our sun. Gas on the star gets so hot that it escapes away into space as a “stellar wind” moving at over 4 million miles per hour. This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble much like a snowplow piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward.

As the surface of the bubble’s shell expands outward, it slams into dense regions of cold gas on one side of the bubble. This asymmetry makes the star appear dramatically off-center from the bubble, with its location in the 10 o'clock position in the Hubble view.

Dense pillars of cool hydrogen gas laced with dust appear at the upper left of the picture, and more “fingers” can be seen nearly face-on, behind the translucent bubble.

The gases heated to varying temperatures emit different colors: oxygen is hot enough to emit blue light in the bubble near the star, while the cooler pillars are yellow from the combined light of hydrogen and nitrogen. The pillars are similar to the iconic columns in the “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula. As seen with the structures in the Eagle Nebula, the Bubble Nebula pillars are being illuminated by the strong ultraviolet radiation from the brilliant star inside the bubble.

It is being formed by an O star, BD +60°2522, an extremely bright, massive, and short-lived star that has lost most of its outer hydrogen and is now fusing helium into heavier elements. The star is about 4 million years old, and in 10 million to 20 million years, it will likely detonate as a supernova.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 imaged the nebula in visible light with unprecedented clarity in February 2016. The colors correspond to blue for oxygen, green for hydrogen, and red for nitrogen. This information will help astronomers understand the geometry and dynamics of this complex system.

Object Names: Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Time And Space