Hubble turns 25
NASA released a new dazzling images of young stars captured by the Hubble Space Telescope to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its launch.
The images focuses on a cluster of young stars known to astronomers as Westerlund 2, named after the Swedish researcher who discovered the grouping in the 1960s. The celestial fireworks showcases that the universe is very much alive.
“Hubble has completely transformed our view of the universe, revealing the true beauty and richness of the cosmos,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science.”
The 2 million-year-old cluster is within the constellation Carina, 20,000 light-years from Earth. The cluster measures six to 13 light-years across. Hubble’s abilities to capture such a clear image of a section of the universe so far away illustrates how crucial the craft has been for space exploration since it launch April 24, 1990.
Since then, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations of more than 800,000 celestial objects. It has also produced in excess of 100 terabytes of data—information that will be available for researchers working decades into the future. Research from Hubble has already been used in almost 13,000 scientific papers, including one that won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
The telescope has also orbited the world nearly 137,000 times—a total of 3.4 billion miles.
While Hubble, built with 1970s technology, remains one of the most powerful space exploration tools available, its future is muddy. When it was launched in 1990, NASA’s plan was to service the telescope with shuttles.
Hubble’s last repair was in 2009 and NASA shuttered its shuttle program in 2011, leaving the powerful tool adrift in space without any assistance.