Hubble Space Telescope was sent into orbit around Earth on April 25, 1990. Even though it got a younger and more powerful brother, James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’ still going strong and taking magnificent photos.
To celebrate Hubble’s 33rd anniversary, NASA and ESA have released a stunning photo of a star-forming region called NGC 1333. It’s one of those photos that, the more you look, the more details you spot and enjoy.
The NGC 1333 is a nearby star-forming region, located in the Perseus molecular cloud around 960 light-years away. In Hubble’s colorful photo, you can see the glowing gases and pitch-black dust blown around by several hundred newly forming stars. As I mentioned, there’s plenty of details to explore, but ESA writes that there’s way more than meets the eye.
“Hubble just scratches the surface; most of the star-birthing firestorm is hidden behind clouds of fine dust — essentially soot — that are thicker toward the bottom of the image, “ESA writes.
The black areas of the image are actually filled with obscuring dust, they’re not just empty space. To capture this image, Hubble used its ability to capture the light from ultraviolet to near-infrared. It was able to see through a veil of dust on the edge of a giant cloud of cold molecular hydrogen.
“Ferocious stellar winds, likely from the bright blue star at the top of the image, are blowing through a curtain of dust,” ESA explains. The fine dust scatters the starlight at blue wavelengths.
“Farther down, another bright super-hot star shines through filaments of obscuring dust, looking like the Sun shining through scattered clouds. A diagonal string of fainter accompanying stars looks reddish because the dust is filtering their starlight, allowing more of the red light to get through. The bottom of the picture presents a keyhole peek deep into the dark nebula. Hubble captures the reddish glow of ionised hydrogen. It looks like the finale of a fireworks display, with several overlapping events. This is caused by pencil-thin jets shooting out from newly forming stars outside the frame of view. These stars are surrounded by circumstellar discs, which may eventually produce planetary systems, and powerful magnetic fields that direct two parallel beams of hot gas deep into space, like a double lightsaber from science fiction films. They sculpt patterns on the hydrogen cocoon, like laser lightshow tracings. The jets are a star’s birth announcement.”
This view is not only beautiful to look at. Like all Hubble images, it gives us a closer look on star and planet formation. According to ESA, it’s an “example of the time when our own Sun and planets formed inside such a dusty molecular cloud, 4.6 billion years ago.”
“Our Sun didn’t form in isolation but was instead embedded inside a mosh pit of frantic stellar birth, perhaps even more energetic and massive than NGC 1333.”