During the 15 years NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has orbited the Earth, it has taken more than 700,000 photos of the cosmos; images that have awed, astounded and even confounded astronomers and the public.
NASA released new views today of two of the most well-known objects Hubble has ever observed: the Whirlpool Galaxy (spiral galaxy M51) [left] and the Eagle Nebula [right]. These new images are among the largest and sharpest Hubble has ever taken. They were made with Hubble's newest camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The images are so incredibly sharp, they could be enlarged to billboard size and still retain stunning details.
For the 15th anniversary, scientists used the ACS to record a new region of the eerie-looking Eagle Nebula. The Eagle Nebula image reveals a tall, dense tower of gas being sculpted by ultraviolet light from a group of massive, hot stars. The new Whirlpool Galaxy image showcases the spiral galaxy's classic features, from its curving arms, where newborn stars reside, to its yellowish central core that serves as home for older stars. A feature of considerable interest is the companion galaxy located at the end of one of the spiral arms.
When NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, astronomers anticipated great discoveries, ranging from finding black holes to looking back billions of years toward the beginning of time. Now, 15 years later, the versatile telescope continues to deliver exciting new science, including helping to prove the existence of dark energy, tracing enigmatic gamma-ray bursts to distant galaxies, and sampling the atmospheres of far-flung planets. To celebrate Hubble's 15th anniversary, new breathtaking images will be released of a majestic spiral galaxy teeming with newborn stars and an eerie-looking spire of gas and dust.
The new image of the well-known spiral galaxy M51 (known as the Whirlpool Galaxy), showcases a spiral galaxy's classic features, from its curving arms, where newborn stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home for older stars. A feature of considerable added interest is the companion galaxy located at the end of one of the spiral arms. The new photograph of the Eagle Nebula shows a tall, dense tower of gas that is being sculpted by ultraviolet light from a group of massive, hot stars.
The pictures are among the largest and sharpest views taken by Hubble. The images, taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, are 20 times larger than a photograph taken by a typical digital camera. The new images are so sharp that they could be enlarged to billboard size and still retain the stunning details.
Mural-sized images of both celestial objects will be unveiled at 100 museums, planetariums, and science centers across the country, from Guam to Maine. The 4-foot-by-6-foot image of M51 and the 3-foot-by-6-foot photograph of the Eagle Nebula will be on display at all the sites. A list of these sites is available on http://hubblesite.org/about_us/unveiling.shtml.
If you cannot see the pictures at a museum or planetarium, catch them on the new "Gallery" at http://hubblesite.org/gallery. Views of M51 and the Eagle Nebula, along with more than 1,000 other glorious Hubble images, can be savored from the comfort of your home. If you want some Hubble pictures to hang in your home, then go to "Astronomy Print Shop." Choose from a list of Hubble images that are specially formatted for printing. Select the image, the size you want (from 4 inches by 6 inches to 16 inches by 20 inches), and download it. Then take it to your favorite print shop to make a copy suitable for framing.
Looking for information about Hubble and its discoveries that is written for children? Then go to the Amazing Space education website at http://amazing-space.stsci.edu. Children can read a story tailored just for them on Hubble's 15th anniversary, entitled "Hubble's Picture Book of the Universe." The story is under "The Star Witness," a section of the website offering Hubble news written for children. Children also can take a journey through the eras of telescope history by going to Amazing Space's "Online Explorations" and clicking on "Telescopes from the Ground Up." This newest addition to Amazing Space traces the fascinating history of telescope evolution from the technological advancements to the people who made the telescopes.
Hubble was placed into Earth-orbit on April 25, 1990. For the first time, a large telescope that sees in visible light began orbiting above Earth's distorting atmosphere, which blurs starlight and makes images appear fuzzy. Astronomers anticipated great discoveries from Hubble. The telescope has delivered as promised and continues serving up new discoveries. During its 15 years of viewing the universe, the telescope has taken more than 700,000 snapshots of celestial objects such as galaxies, dying stars, and giant gas clouds, the birthplace of stars. Astronomers are looking forward to more great discoveries by Hubble.