A gallery of stunning Hubble images from new book

These images are featured in the stunning new book Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time by Edward J. Weiler, published by Abrams in collaboration with NASA. All images: Courtesy NASA. Click images for enlargement.

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Hubble's survey of planetary nebulae reveals surprisingly intricate, glowing patterns spun into space by aging stars: pinwheels, lawn sprinkler-style jets, elegant goblet shapes, and even some that look like a rocket engine's exhaust. These nebulae record the complex processes that happen in the final stages of a Sun-like star's evolution when it burns out and collapses to a white dwarf star. This is the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543), one of the first to be discovered. Credit: Hubble Heritage Team


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Eerie, dramatic pictures from the Hubble show newborn stars emerging from dense, compact pockets of interstellar gas called evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) that lie in the Eagle Nebula, a nearby star-forming region 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens. The columns--dubbed "elephant trunks"--protrude from the wall of a vast cloud of molecular hydrogen like stalagmites rising above the floor of a cavern. Inside the gaseous towers, which are light-years long, the interstellar gas is dense enough to collapse under its own weight, forming young stars that continue to grow as they accumulate more and more mass from their surroundings. Credit: Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)

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A 3-light-year-long pillar in the Carina Nebula photographed in visible light is bathed in the glow of light from hot, massive stars. Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of changed particles) from these stars are sculpting the pillar and causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of gas and dust can be seen flowing off the top of the structure. The fledgling stars inside the pillar cannot be seen because they are hidden by gas and dust. Although the stars themselves are invisible, one of them is providing evidence of its existence: Thin puffs of material can be seen traveling to the left and to the right of a dark notch in the center of the pillar. The matter is part of a jet produced by a young star. Farther away, on the left, the jet is visible as a grouping of small, wispy clouds. The jet's total length is about 10 light-years.

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The Sombrero Galaxy (M104) is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes that make up its spiral structure. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is titled nearly edge on: We view it from just 6 degrees north of its equatorial plane. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is 28 million light-years from the Earth.

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This is the sharpest image taken of the merging Antennae galaxies. During the course of collision, billions of stars are formed. The brightest and most compact of these star-birth regions are called super star clusters. The two spiral galaxies started their interaction a few hundred million years ago, making the Antennae galaxies one of the nearest and youngest examples of a pair of colliding galaxies. Nearly half of the faint objects in the Antennae image are young clusters containing tens of thousands of stars. The orange blobs to the left and right of center are the two cores of the original galaxies and consist mainly of old stars crisscrossed by filaments of dust, which appear brown in the image. The two galaxies are dotted with brilliant blue star-forming regions surrounded by glowing hydrogen gas, appearing in the image in pink.

Hubble: A Journey Through Space and Time by Edward J. Weiler

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  1. ABSOLUTELY astounding…. What will astronomy do when Hubble finally goes dark?? I’m not sure the folks that fund our look that far into our future, on a regular basis, yet grasp what they have here. It will be a monumental loss for the planet to not further study what’s around us…

  2. My dad is an astronomer at the (Hubble) Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He has played a part in reviewing the proposals that come in for telescope time (anyone, anywhere in the world, can submit a proposal) along with doing his own research. His pet project is the “Light Echo” which you can see here: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0503a/

    If anyone in this comment thread has any questions about Hubble, I’d be glad to pass them on to him and get answers for you!

    1. The light echo is a amazing set of pictures. I’d love to see a good animation of it overtime.

      Props to your Dad’s pet project.

    2. hi ya ,firstly keep up the good work.q.has hubble look to the sirius b dwaf star system?apparently the dogon tribe in africa recon thair ancestors come from there?curiouser & curiouser said alice. later jono.

  3. Fantastic! It seems a lot of people only remember the troubles at the beginning of its mission, not the two decades of astounding science it has created.

    It’s a little sad to see the Shuttle program going away since without the shuttle the lifespan of this great instrument would have been much shorter. Does the ISS as a science platform equal or better an independent satellite like Hubble?

    And a pure astronomy question: Looking at the Sombrero Galaxy image, there’s a bright glow surrounding the whole thing. Is this some kind of lens flare from the intense energy source in the center, or is it light reflected from a sphere of gas surrounding the galaxy?

  4. when ignorant people (i.e. current administration) slowly eliminate great things like the space program and the Hubble project, we’ll stop prospering as a race,

  5. Every time I read see a headline about Hubble images I tell myself that its all computer colored to look as impressive as possible. Then I see the astounding pictures and stop caring.

    1. If it makes you feel any better, some of the images (e.g., the Eagle Nebula above, the M42 mosaic almost assuredly in the book) are color-balanced to match the eye’s response as close as is possible given the filter sets used in the observations.

      But toss that — give me a good emission-line ratio map any day.

      And while I’m at it, @11 yes, with adaptive optics ground-based telescopes are theoretically capable of resolutions rivalling HST. But JWST will be up (eventually), to satisfy for insatiable lust for space porn.

  6. These are some truly amazing photos. The Hubble has done a great job of showing us how incomprehensibly vast and diverse our universe is.

    I work in a building where dozens of engineers are making the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona into a fully-functional instrument. They hope to be able to take pictures of this quality with it some day, if they can get all 2000 computers working together harmoniously and deploy the two 1m dia. x 1.6mm thick adaptive secondary mirrors without breaking them. They already have one installed.

    I hope they can pull it off.

  7. Well, those give me some desktop backgrounds for this nice new monitor.

    Utterly stupefyingly beautiful.

    Can future ground-based telescopes honestly hope to achieve these kinds of images? Otherwise there’ll be another thing denied generations to come, along with concorde and moon landings.

  8. @#5:

    Oh, please.

    The current administration hasn’t eliminated the space program or Hubble. It pulled the plug on a overbudget manned return to the moon project. NASA’s budget has been increased.

  9. Most Impressive. The universe is, like, so big and all. . .makes me reflect on what a miserable, beautiful speck this planet is.

    “Better one day on Earth than a thousand years in the afterlife.”

    With Stephen Hawking in the news recently, warning us about the aliens out there. . .these pictures have me much more concerned about nebula-sized space jellyfish than Zentraedi or Romulan invasion. . .

  10. “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” Sir Arthur Eddington

  11. When ever I get exited about astronomy and space exploration at work some of my colleagues ask: Why bother putting so much money into this? What are the benefits?

    These pictures are all the explanation I need but some just don’t get it. I can’t imagine why.

  12. JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) is scheduled for 2014, but yeah, who knows. Adaptive optics FTW in the mean time. LOL @ anonymous poster bemoaning “ignorant people (i.e. current administration)” for “slowly eliminat[ing] great things like the space program and the Hubble project.” People displaying ignorance while calling others ignorant. Ha! It’s a hoot.

  13. Dear PolishQ,

    Thanks for the offer. Here is my question for your dad:

    What scientific proof (direct observation?) is there that indicates the Earth moves around the sun and on its axis?

    A friend tells me there is none.

    Thank you
    carmelo3@verizon.net

  14. “In the 3rd photo there is an Astounding Visual of Lord Ganesha…smiling at Us in semi-profile with His finger pointing up towards the Cosmos. A Most Remarkable Image…”
    Love Always & Forever,
    L.A.A.F.
    Pat Timmermans…Purveyor of “Endless Possibilities!”

  15. I just ordered this through Amazon.ca – thanks for the heads up!

    PS I hope you guys get credit from Amazon.ca for directing my attention to this book, which I plan to give as a gift this Xmas.

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