Hubble’s 28th Anniversary

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The Lagoon Nebula as seen in the Astronomy Picture of the Day for 14 December, 2016. Image credit: ESO/INAF/R. Colombari/E. Recurt

Tomorrow, 24 April, 2018, marks the 28th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s service to mankind. Twenty Eight years ago on this date in 1990, the intrepid telescope rocketed into history aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. To celebrate this momentous occasion, NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute have released the beautiful image and “Fly Through” video, to the left as a wide-field thumbnail image and as medium resolution image of the nebula’s central region with HST, below.

Otherwise known as Messier-8 (M-8), its name, “Lagoon”, derives from its appearance as a lagoon with a dark lane of dust superimposed on a background of bright, ionized hydrogen gas.

This object is a summer favorite of amateur and professional astronomers alike, making for a stunning view in a pair of binoculars or a large telescope. Since its still early in the season, its visible in the very early hours of the morning.

As the summer approaches, along with the rest of the jewels visible in the southern sky during the summer season, it will present as an evening object sitting high above the southern horizon for Northern Hemisphere observers.

M-8, the Lagoon Nebula, seen as a pink cloud front and center in this early morning view looking south into Sagittarius, tomorrow, 24 April, 2018. Note Mars and Saturn to the east of the Galactic Center, directly below the Lagoon. Note, Scorpio with the Red Supergiant star Antares to the west.

A feature of the new Hubble Site is the HubbleLive page, allowing interested parties to follow astronomers in real time during their observing program with the HST as they plumb the depths of the cosmos with humankind’s flagship orbiting telescope.

At the center of the image below, in the heart of the nebula (Latin for “cloud”), a monster young star 200,000 times more luminous 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.

The giant star, named Herschel 36, is bursting out of its natal cocoon of gas and dust, unleashing blistering radiation and torrential stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) that push the surrounding gas and 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.

Medium resolution image of the Lagoon Nebula, M-8.

The companion InfraRed image, seen to the right of the visible-light image, below, allows astronomers to literally “see through” the intervening gas and dust, so clearly obscuring background objects in the visible light image.

Visible light image flanked by a near-Infrared image, both produced with Hubble’s WFPC-3.

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Post author: Professor James Daly of Astronomy For Change.

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