Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery


  • newswise-fullscreen Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery

    Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

    For 28 years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering breathtaking views of the universe. Although the telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of over 40,000 space objects, it is still uncovering stunning celestial gems. The latest offering is this image of the Lagoon Nebula to celebrate the telescope’s anniversary. Hubble shows this vast stellar nursery in stunning unprecedented detail. At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction.

  • newswise-fullscreen Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery

    Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

    This star-filled image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in near-infrared wavelengths of light, reveals a very different view of the Lagoon Nebula compared to its visible-light portrait. Making infrared observations of the cosmos allows astronomers to penetrate vast clouds of gas and dust to uncover hidden gems. Hubble's view offers a sneak peek at the dramatic vistas NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will provide. The most obvious difference between Hubble's infrared and visible photos of this region is the abundance of stars that fill the infrared field of view. Most of them are more distant, background stars located behind the nebula itself. However, some of these pinpricks of light are young stars within the Lagoon Nebula. The brilliant star near the center of the frame, known as Herschel 36, is about 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. This hefty star is 32 times more massive and eight times hotter than our Sun. Its powerful ultraviolet radiation and fierce stellar winds are carving away the surrounding nebula, removing the raw materials that smaller stars need to form. Dark smudges known as Bok globules mark the thickest parts of the nebula, where dust protects still-forming stars and their planets. While Hubble cannot penetrate these dusty clumps, Webb will be able to see through them. Webb will probe young stars still in the process of forming. It also will examine the disks of dust and gas surrounding those stars, known as protoplanetary disks, in order to determine how far the planet formation process has proceeded. Webb will determine whether the inner regions of those disks have been cleared out, the dust either swept up by protoplanets or swept away by stellar winds. Webb could take a stellar census of the Lagoon Nebula to determine not only how many massive stars it contains, but also how many Sun-like stars and how many failed stars known as brown dwarfs. This would enable astronomers to get the big picture of the stellar population across the entire range of masses, particularly at the low end. The image shows a region of the nebula measuring about 4 light-years across. The observations were taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, 2018.

  • newswise-fullscreen Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery

    Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

    These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble's 28th anniversary in space. The colorful visible-light image at left reveals a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This dust-and-gas landscape is being sculpted by powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds unleashed by a monster young star. Located at the center of the photo, the star, known as Herschel 36, is about 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. This hefty star is 32 times more massive and eight times hotter than our Sun. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star's standards, only 1 million years old. The blistering radiation and powerful stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) are pushing dust away in curtain-like sheets. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material, it is suppressing star formation around it. However, at the dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem, stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. Dark, elephant-like "trunks" of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars. The star-filled image at right, taken by Hubble in near-infrared light, reveals a very different view of the Lagoon Nebula compared to its visible-light portrait. Making infrared observations of the cosmos allows astronomers to penetrate vast clouds of gas and dust to uncover hidden gems. Hubble's view offers a sneak peek at the dramatic vistas NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will provide. The most obvious difference between Hubble's infrared and visible photos of this region is the abundance of stars that fill the infrared field of view. Most of them are more distant, background stars located behind the nebula itself. However, some of these pinpricks of light are young stars within the Lagoon Nebula. The giant star Herschel 36, near the center of the frame, shines even brighter in this infrared view. Dark smudges known as Bok globules mark the thickest parts of the nebula, where dust protects still-forming stars and their planets. While Hubble cannot penetrate these dusty clumps, Webb will be able to see through them. The Lagoon Nebula resides 4,000 light-years away. The image shows a region of the nebula measuring about 4 light-years across. The observations were taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, 2018.

FOR RELEASE: 10:00 a.m. (EDT) April 19, 2018

PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC18-21a

HUBBLE 28TH ANNIVERSARY IMAGE CAPTURES ROILING HEART OF VAST STELLAR NURSERY

Newswise — This colorful image, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, celebrates the Earth-orbiting observatory’s 28th anniversary of viewing the heavens, giving us a window seat to the universe’s extraordinary tapestry of stellar birth and destruction.

At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust.

This mayhem is all happening at the heart of the Lagoon Nebula, a vast stellar nursery located 4,000 light-years away and visible in binoculars simply as a smudge of light with a bright core.

The giant star, called Herschel 36, is bursting out of its natal cocoon of material, unleashing blistering radiation and torrential stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) that push dust away in curtain-like sheets. This action resembles the Sun bursting through the clouds at the end of an afternoon thunderstorm that showers sheets of rainfall.

Herschel 36’s violent activity has blasted holes in the bubble-shaped cloud, allowing astronomers to study this action-packed stellar breeding ground.

The hefty star is 32 times more massive and eight times hotter than our Sun. It is nearly nine times our Sun’s diameter. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star’s standards, only 1 million years old. Based on its mass, it will live for another 5 million years. In comparison, our smaller Sun is 5 billion years old and will live another 5 billion years.

This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction. The clouds may look majestic and peaceful, but they are in a constant state of flux from the star’s torrent of searing radiation and high-speed particles from stellar winds. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material with its powerful energy, it is suppressing star formation around it.

However, at the dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem, stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. Dark, elephant-like “trunks” of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars. They are analogous to desert buttes that resist weather erosion.

The Hubble view shows off the bubble’s 3D structure. Dust pushed away from the star reveals the glowing oxygen gas (in blue) behind the blown-out cavity. Herschel 36’s brilliant light is illuminating the top of the cavity (in yellow). The reddish hue that dominates part of the region is glowing nitrogen. The dark purple areas represent a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

The image shows a region of the nebula measuring about 4 light-years across.

The observations were taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, 2018.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

For images, video, and more information about the Lagoon Nebula and Hubble, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-21

http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1808

Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
410-338-4493 / 410-338-4514
dweaver@stsci.edu / villard@stsci.edu


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