Some of Our Favourite Images from Hubble Hubble Images
A New Ultra-Deep Field - December 2009

This image, taken in near-infrared light.   The new deep view also provides insights into how galaxies grew in their formative years early in the universe's history.

This image was taken in the same region as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), which was taken in 2004 and is the deepest visible-light image of the universe.  Hubble's newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) collects light from near-infrared wavelengths and therefore looks even deeper into the universe, because the light from very distant galaxies is stretched out of the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum into near-infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the universe.  The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang.  No galaxies have been seen before at such early times.

This image was taken by the HUDF09 team, which was awarded the time for the observation and made it available for research by astronomers worldwide. In just three months, 12 scientific papers have already been submitted on these new data.

The photo was taken with the new WFC3/IR camera on Hubble in late August 2009 during a total of four days of pointing for 173,000 seconds of total exposure time.  Infrared light is invisible and therefore does not have colours that can be perceived by the human eye. The colours in the image are assigned comparatively short, medium, and long, near-infrared wavelengths (blue, 1.05 microns; green, 1.25 microns; red, 1.6 microns).  The representation is "natural" in that blue objects look blue and red objects look red. The faintest objects are about one-billionth as bright as can be seen with the naked eye.

These Hubble observations are trailblazing a path for Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will look even farther into the universe than Hubble, at infrared wavelengths. The JWST is planned to be launched in 2014.  Full Resolution Image (5.1Mb)

NGC 6302
Planetary nebula NGC 6302 as imaged with the new cameras on Hubble immediately following the latest servicing mission.
Stefan's Quintet
The galaxy cluster in Pegasus known as Stefan's Quintet as imaged with the new cameras on Hubble immediately following the latest servicing mission.  The galaxy to the upper left is known to be closer to us, even though it appears to be associated.  The blue colour compared with the other group members shows it's relative closeness, but the key thing in this new Hubble image is you can distinguish individual stars in the closer galaxy.
Omega Centauri
The huge globular cluster Omega Centauri showing new hot stars in blue, white dwarf stars and older, red stars.
A Gas Pillar in Carina
This gas cloud contains a hot, young star which is generating huge amounts of energy and illuminating the entire gas cloud.  Infra red studies have show numerous other new stars being born within this cloud and you can see the jets of dispelled material emanating from all sides of the nebula.
Arp 274
When two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small fraction of that space. vBut during the collision, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide.  If the two galaxies merge, black holes that probably resided in each galaxy centre may eventually merge.  Because the distances are so large the whole thing takes place in slow motion - over hundreds of millions of years.  Besides the two large spiral galaxies a smaller third galaxy is visible on the far left of the above image of Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679.  Arp 274 is about 200,000 light years across and lies about 400 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo.  Larger Image.
Planetary Nebula NGC 2440 in Puppis
This image shows the colourful last death throes of a star like our Sun.  The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which once formed the predominantly hydrogen containing surface layers around the star's helium core.  Ultraviolet light from the dying star left behind makes the material glow.  The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the centre of this image.  Our Sun will eventually burn out and shroud itself with stellar debris like this, but not for about another 5 billion years.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is littered with these stellar relics, called planetary nebulae.  The name is misleading, because the objects have nothing to do with planets.  The name derives from when eighteenth and nineteenth century astronomers gave them this name because through the small telescopes of the day they resembled the disks of the distant planets Uranus and Neptune.  The white dwarf at the center of NGC 2440 is one of the hottest known, with a surface temperature of nearly 200,000 degrees Celsius.  The nebula's chaotic structure suggests that the star shed its mass episodically.  During each outburst, the star expelled material in a different direction.  This can be seen in the two bow tie-shaped lobes.  The nebula also is rich in clouds of dust, some of which form long, dark streaks pointing away from the star.  NGC 2440 lies about 4,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Puppis.  This image was taken on 6th February, 2007 with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.  The colours correspond to the different types of material which were expelled by the star.  Blue corresponds to helium; blue-green to oxygen; and red to nitrogen and hydrogen.  There is a full sized image here.

Messier 82 - A 16th Birthday Picture
To celebrate the Hubble Space Telescope's 16 years of success, the two space agencies involved in the project, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), released this image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82).  This mosaic image is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82.  The galaxy is remarkable for its bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds, and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions.  Throughout the galaxy's center, young stars are being born 10 times
faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy. The resulting huge concentration of young stars carved into the gas and dust at the galaxy's centre.  The fierce galactic wind generated from these stars compresses enough gas to make millions of more stars.

In M82, young stars are crammed into tiny but massive star clusters.  These, in turn, congregate by the dozens to make the bright patches, or "starburst clumps," in the central parts of M82. The clusters in the clumps can only be distinguished in the sharp Hubble images. Most of the pale, white objects sprinkled around the body of M82 that look like fuzzy stars are actually individual star clusters about 20 light-years across and contain up to a million stars.  The rapid rate of star formation in this galaxy eventually will be self-limiting. When star formation becomes too vigorous, it will consume or destroy the material needed to make more stars. The starburst then will
subside, probably in a few tens of millions of years.  Located 12 million light-years away, M82 appears high in the northern spring sky in the direction of the constellation of Ursa Major.  There is a large (6Mb) image here.

Messier 1 - The Crab Nebula

This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by Hubble, of the Crab Nebula, a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star's supernova explosion.  Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans.  The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen.  The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the centre of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula's eerie interior bluish glow.  The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star.  The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star's rotation.  A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.  The newly composed image was assembled from 24 individual Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 exposures taken in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. The colours in the image indicate the different elements that were expelled during the explosion.  Blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen, green is singly-ionized sulphur, and red indicates doubly-ionized oxygen.  There is a large (3Mb) Image here.

NGC 1300

NGC 1300 is a large spiral galaxy that appears as a flattened figure of eight.  A huge bar that spans over 150,000 light-years across the galaxy centre dominates its appearance.  This galaxy lies about 75 million light-years distant, so that light that we see now left during the age of the dinosaurs.  Although it is well known how fast different parts of NGC 1300 rotate, the specific orbits of many component stars -- including how they interact with the gigantic bar -- remains a topic of research.  Our own Milky Way Galaxy is a spiral galaxy with a less prominent bar.  NGC 1300 can be seen with a small telescope and is in the constellation of Eridanus

A 14th Birthday Picture

This amazing image from the Hubble Space telescope is of a type of galaxy known as a "Ring" galaxy.  This particular object, located in the southern sky constellation of Dorado, resembles a diamond encrusted bracelet.  A ring of brilliant blue stars and star clusters surrounds the yellowish nucleus of what was once a normal spiral galaxy.

Lying 300 million light years away from us this object, known as AM 0644-741 is the result of a collision between two galaxies.  The passage of one through the other has totally rearranged the stars, gas and matter in the spiral, leaving behind a fiery ring of newborn stars, their birth catalysed by the intense energy and disruption of the encounter.

Here is a very much reduced and compressed picture.  The ring galaxy is also known as ESO 034-11.  It is 2.0' x 1.2' in size and shines at a magnitude of 13.8.  The interesting galaxy just to the left is PGC 19480 - a class SO spiral, and the one below is PGC 19455.  There are so many other galaxies in this shot that they are not on any database I have.  What a wonderful image!


.......and there is a large (4Mb) image here.  (The full resolution image was 18Mb)

Messier 51
Messier object 51, otherwise known as the Whirlpool Galaxy in the constellation of Canes Venatici.  There is some dispute about exactly how far away this galaxy is but it is probably around 25 million light years (further than a trip downtown!).  The attraction of this object is that it presents a completely face on aspect, and it is connected to the smaller galaxy (NGC 5195) by a bridge of matter which is barely visible in amateur telescopes.  Click Here for a larger image (1.2Mb)
The Smaller Magellanic Cloud
Hubble astronomers have uncovered, for the first time, a population of infant stars in the Milky Way satellite galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC, visible to the naked eye in the southern constellation Tucana), located 210,000 light-years away.  Hubble's exquisite sharpness plucked out an underlying population of infant stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346 that are still forming from gravitationally collapsing gas clouds. They have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel to sustain nuclear fusion. The smallest of these infant stars is only half the mass of our Sun.  Although star birth is common within the disk of our galaxy, this smaller companion galaxy is more primeval in that it lacks a large percentage of the heavier elements that are forged in successive generations of stars through nuclear fusion.  Fragmentary galaxies like the SMC are considered primitive building blocks of larger galaxies. Most of these types of galaxies existed far away, when the universe was much younger. The SMC offers a unique nearby laboratory for understanding how stars arose in the early universe. Nestled among other starburst regions with the small galaxy, the nebula NGC 346 alone contains more than 2,500 infant stars.  Click here for a larger image (0.8Mb)

Return to Front Page