In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope‘s 25th anniversary on Friday, NASA representatives on Thursday unveiled an official celebratory image.
The image captures a section of Gum 29, a region of vigorous star birth around 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. The glittering cluster is called Westerlund 2. It’s made up of around 3,000 stars and spans between six and 13 light-years across.
The images reveals a truth that the telescope has helped us see for years: Our universe is alive with activity. Unlike the human eye, the Hubble can bring out a full spectrum of light emitted by new stars. It gives us a stunning picture of the stellar birthing grounds and the gas and dust surrounding them. NASA has also released a 3-D fly-through of the image, thanks to the Hubble’s incredible resolution coupled with NASA scientists’ knowledge.
The Universe is gloriously transparent to visible light over journeys lasting billions of years. However, in the last few microseconds before light arrives at telescope mirrors on Earth it must travel through our turbulent atmosphere and the fine cosmic details become blurred. It is this same atmospheric turbulence that makes the stars appear to twinkle on a dark night.
Putting a telescope in space is one way of evading this problem. As well as collecting visible light from its orbit high above the atmosphere, the Hubble Space Telescope also observes the infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths that are completely filtered out by the atmosphere.
The Hubble Space Telescope has made some of the most dramatic discoveries in the history of astronomy. From its vantage point 600 km above the Earth, Hubble can detect light with ‘eyes’ 5 times sharper than the best ground-based telescopes and looks deep into space where some of the most profound mysteries are still buried in the mists of time.