In pictures: Hubble telescope turns 24 some of its best images

As the Hubble space telescope is set to have its 24th birthday of being in space next week it has released hundreds of images and broadened our knowledge of space and the galaxy.

Earlier in the year the operators of the telescope released a new image to celebrate the anniversary. 

We’ve looked back through the archives from the telescope and picked out some of its most striking images from across the years.

1997: Blue Straggler Star

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For the first time astronomers managed to capture a Blue Straggler – a young star that is among a well-established group of stars.

Nasa said at the time: “This finding provides proof that blue stragglers are created by collisions or other intimate encounters in an overcrowded cluster core.”

1998: Bright Knots being ejected

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This black and white image shows an ejection of mass from a super-hot star known as a Wolf-Tayet star.

Nasa said at the time: “The blobs may result from the furious stellar wind that does not flow smoothly into space but has instabilities which make it clumpy.

“This black and white image was made in the light of atomic hydrogen.”  

2000: Satellite footprints is Jupiter Aurora

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Half a billion miles away on Jupiter this electric-blue aurora is glowing.

Nasa said: “Though the aurora resembles the same phenomenon that crowns Earth’s polar regions, the Hubble image shows unique emissions from the magnetic “footprints” of three of Jupiter’s largest moons.”

2004: 400-year old Supernova mystery solved

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The last object to explode in our Milky Way galaxy was finally revealed as Kepler’s supernova in 2004 by the use of the Hubble and also two other observatories.

“When a new star appeared alongside Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn on Oct. 9, 1604, observers could use only their eyes to study it. The telescope would not be invented for another four years,” said Nasa.

It continued: “Modern-day astronomers, on the other hand, have the combined abilities of the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory at their disposal.”

2005: Mosaic of the Crab Nebula

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This is the highest resolution image of the Crab Nebula, a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion, that has even been captured.

Nasa said: “His composite image was assembled from 24 individual exposures taken with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000.”

2013: 3-D Structure of Ejected Material

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The Hubble telescope and its team tracked light from an erupting star and managed to create a 3D structure of the material.

Nasa said: “After 45 years of peaceful bliss, the nova T Pyxidis erupted again in 2011.

“Astronomers took advantage of a flash of light accompanying the blast to map the ejecta from previous outbursts surrounding the double-star system.”


All images courtesy of Nasa and the Hubble Telescope.


NASA to Transform Kennedy Space Center into Spaceport of the Future

NASA, the US’ space agency, has released new details about its plans to convert Kennedy Space Center in Florida into a multi-user spaceport.

Traditionally Kennedy has been the base for only one type of launch system, which was used for spacecraft such as the Saturn V rocket.

However, this overhaul would allow several types of launch systems to operate at the space center, including the new Space Launch System (SLS), meaning a wide variety of spacecraft could be launched from the Florida base, including SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft.

The Kennedy overhaul would provide the ability to significantly further human exploration into space.

“We’ve pushed the boundaries of space exploration for more than 50 years and are making progress getting ready to move the frontier even further into the solar system,” said NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration system development Dan Dumbacher.

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The new launch options would, according to a press release from NASA “provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit”.

The agency believes that the updated Spaceport would provide enough flexibility to not only launch both crew and cargo missions, but to reach wider destinations in the solar system, including asteroids and mars.

”The work being done to transform our abilities to prepare and process spacecraft and launch vehicles at Kennedy is a critical piece of our efforts to send astronauts in Orion on top of the Space Launch System to asteroid and ultimately Mars,” added Dumbacher.

The nature of space travel has changed in the last few decades, with private companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX moving in to handle cargo missions and other projects.

We are likely to see a far wider range of destinations and mission types going forwards. Proposed missions using the Space Launch System include a lunar surface mission in the late 2020s, five near-earth asteroid missions and a crewed Mars landing mission slated for 2033 or 2045.

Other proposed missions include the launch of a monolithic telescope, a solar probe mission and a probe mission to Uranus.

While the spaceport plans are still in development, the details released, which are part of the Preliminary Design Review, mark a key stepping stone in the development of Kennedy.

This review has confirmed that the planned architecture is suitable both from a technical standpoint and also in terms of what NASA wants to achieve.

“The preliminary design review is incredibly important, as it must demonstrate the ground systems designs are on track to process and launch the SLS and the Orion from Kennedy,” said GSDO program manager Mike Bolger.


Images courtesy of NASA.