We don’t need an occasion to appreciate how phenomenal the universe is. In fact, if it doesn’t blow your mind every damn day, it’s time you reflected on how bizarre and fantastic our spot on this tiny rock in space actually is. To help you out, we’ve found some photos from the Hubble telescope that are sure to remind you.
On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle Discovery shot off from Earth cradling the Hubble Space Telescope nestled securely. The next day, Hubble was released into space, where it remains today, peering into the great unknown and projecting images back to us. These help scientists make sense of the cosmos and uncover some of its secrets. It is still at the forefront of space discoveries and continues to stun us with images that almost seem too impressive to be real. Here are a few of our favourites:
This star, called AG Carinae is “waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction”. Its expanding shell of gas and dust surrounds the star for about about five light-years in each direction, and amounts to about 10 times our own sun’s mass.
The huge structure was created from one or more giant eruptions approximately 10,000 years ago, in which the star’s outer layers were blown into space.
Personally, I think it’s just really nice to look at.
But not as nice as this. This billowing galactic cloud is the Barnard 33 Horsehead Nebula 1600 light years from our own planet.
It’s classified as a Dark Nebula, and if that’s not an epic name for a super villain I don’t know what is.
The cosmic candy floss you see here is the gaseous remains of an exploded massive star that erupted about 1,700 years ago.
The “stellar corpse”, a supernova remnant named 1E 0102.2-7219, cancelled its lifetime subscription to the universe in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.
According to HubbleSite.org, “astronomers using Hubble previously captured a remarkable image of a young star’s unseen, planet-forming disk casting a huge shadow across a more distant cloud in a star-forming region. The star is called HBC 672, and the shadow feature was nicknamed the ‘Bat Shadow’ because it resembles a pair of wings. The nickname turned out to be unexpectedly appropriate, because now those ‘wings’ appear to be flapping!”
M16 Eagle Nebula is a star-forming nebula that seems to reach across space. Distance from earth: 6,500 light years.
Although this image was captured in 2004, it’s still as glorious as ever.
This space jelly-fish is in fact called the Butterfly Nebula, or NGC 6302. Its peculiar shape is caused by the star, or stars, in its centre, which, in their death throes, have cast off layers of gas periodically over the past few thousand years.
The wings of this butterfly may look pretty from a distance, but in fact, they’re regions of gas that rip across space at over 600,000 miles per hour, heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit!
In this mind-boggling Hubble telescope portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its little blue buddy (NGC 2020) are part of an expansive star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way) located a whopping 163,000 light-years away.
According to HubbleSite.org “The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because the nebulas resemble an undersea world”.
Don’t stare too long at the M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, or you might fall in – even if this hypnotic spiral galaxy is a mind-bending 15 million light years away.
If you ever need to feel a little appreciation for our planet and the vast universe in which it floats, just come back to these magical images.
Far from being science fiction, these cosmic bodies are in fact our neighbours, in a sense, and thanks to the Hubble Telescope, we get to spy on them all we want.