Hubble celebrates its 30th anniversaryChristian Fernsby ▼ | April 25, 2020
Hubble Space Telescope's iconic images and scientific breakthroughs have redefined our view of the Universe.
Hubble NGC 2014 NGC 2020
The portrait features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbour NGC 2020 which together form part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, approximately 163,000 light-years away.
The image is nicknamed the "Cosmic Reef" because it resembles an undersea world.
On 24 April 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew.
Deployed into low-Earth orbit a day later, the telescope has since opened a new eye onto the cosmos that has been transformative for our civilization.
Hubble is revolutionising modern astronomy not only for astronomers, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery.
Hubble's seemingly never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for its exemplary scientific achievements.
Unlike any other telescope before it, Hubble has made astronomy relevant, engaging, and accessible for people of all ages.
The mission has yielded to date 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers around the world have used to write more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making it one of the most prolific space observatories in history.
Its rich data archive alone will fuel future astronomy research for generations to come.
Each year, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dedicates a small portion of its precious observing time to taking a special anniversary image, showcasing particularly beautiful and meaningful objects.
These images continue to challenge scientists with exciting new surprises and to fascinate the public with ever more evocative observations.
This year, Hubble is celebrating this new milestone with a portrait of two colourful nebulae that reveals how energetic, massive stars sculpt their homes of gas and dust.
Although NGC 2014 and NGC 2020 appear to be separate in this visible-light image, they are actually part of one giant star formation complex.
The star-forming regions seen here are dominated by the glow of stars at least 10 times more massive than our Sun.
These stars have short lives of only a few million years, compared to the 10-billion-year lifetime of our Sun.
The sparkling centerpiece of NGC 2014 is a grouping of bright, hefty stars near the centre of the image that has blown away its cocoon of hydrogen gas (coloured red) and dust in which it was born.
A torrent of ultraviolet radiation from the star cluster is illuminating the landscape around it.
These massive stars also unleash fierce winds that are eroding the gas cloud above and to the right of them.
The gas in these areas is less dense, making it easier for the stellar winds to blast through them, creating bubble-like structures reminiscent of brain coral, that have earned the nebula the nickname the "Brain Coral." ■