Since it was launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has sent us breathtaking images back from the deepest corners of space. Named after the trailblazing astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, the HST, a large, space-based observatory, has revolutionized astronomy by providing unprecedented deep and clear views of the Universe. Hubble has provided spectacular images, not just of our own solar system, but extremely remote fledgling galaxies forming not long after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.
Photo: Hubble drifts over Earth after its release by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis during the fifth astronaut visit to the telescope, May 19, 2009.
Explosion of sun-like star
This image of NGC 2440, released by NASA on Sept. 23, 2016, shows the colorful “last hurrah” of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the center.
The different colors indicate the composition of material being expelled. Blue samples helium; blue-green oxygen, and red nitrogen and hydrogen.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and K. Noll
Alpha Centauri A and B
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has given us this stunning view of the bright Alpha Centauri A (on the left) and Alpha Centauri B (on the right), part of the closest closest star system to the Earth, flashing like huge cosmic headlamps in the dark, Sept. 2, 2016
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
At the center of this image, released March 4, 2016, is an emission-line star known as IRAS 12196-6300, located just under 2300 light-years from Earth. Emission lines describe the star's light, dispersed into a spectrum, which show up as rainbow of colors marked with patterns of dark and bright lines. The lines help determine the age of the star, which is considered young at under 10 million years old.
The hazy clouds, pictured floating above and below IRAS 12196-6300, are created when light from a star reflects off a high concentration of nearby dust.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgemen
Blue bubble, Wolf-Rayet star
Sparkling at the center of this photo, released Feb. 26, 2016, is a Wolf-Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel).
The distinctive blue bubble which appears to encircle WR 31a is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. The bubble -- estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago -- is expanding at a incredible rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,702 miles) per hour.
WR 31a will eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova, and the stellar material expelled from its explosion will later nourish a new generation of stars and planets.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Messier 63 - Sunflower Galaxy
The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63 recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower in this photo released September 11, 2015. The nickname for this cosmic object -- the Sunflower Galaxy -- is no coincidence.
Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1779, the galaxy later made it as the 63rd entry into fellow French astronomer Charles Messier's famous catalogue, published in 1781. The two astronomers spotted the Sunflower Galaxy's glow in the small, northern constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs). It's now known this galaxy is about 27 million light-years away and belongs to the M51 Group -- a group of galaxies, named after its brightest member, Messier 51.
Messier 96 - galactic maelstrom
This photo released September 4, 2015 shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way.
The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas is unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic center. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96.
Credit: R. Gendler/ESA/Hubble/NASA
"Pillars of Creation"
In 2014, Hubble photographed the Eagle Nebula again using the more powerful Wide Field Camera 3. The updated image shows the multi-colored glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust and the rust-colored elephants' trunks of the nebula's famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars.
With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.
Stellar spire in the Eagle Nebula
Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature, the soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 57 trillion miles high, about twice the distance from our sun to the next nearest star.
This object is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from the stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula.
Majestic Sombrero Galaxy
The Hubble Space Telescope captured this stunning view of one of the universe's most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero, also known as Messier 104 (M104).
The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. Tilted nearly edge-on as seen from Earth, the Sombrero is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years away.
In this image, released for Hubble's 25th anniversary, a "brilliant tapestry" of young stars calls to mind a cosmic fireworks show - "a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
The sparkling centerpiece of Hubble's silver anniversary fireworks is a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster is only about 2 million years old and contains some of our galaxy's hottest, brightest, and most massive stars.
This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a pair of one-half-light-year long interstellar 'twisters' - eerie funnels and twisted-rope structures - in the heart of the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) which lies 5,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.
At the turn of the 19th century, the binary star system Eta Carinae was faint and undistinguished.
In the first decades of the century, it became brighter and brighter, until, by April 1843, it was the second brightest star in the sky.
The larger of the two stars in the Eta Carinae system is a huge and unstable star that is nearing the end of its life. The event observed in the 19th century was a stellar near-death experience. Scientists call these outbursts supernova impostor events, because they appear similar to supernovae, but stop just short of destroying their star.
A star is born: Carina Nebula
The Carina Nebula, the home of Eta Carinae, shows star birth in a new level of detail.
The fantasy-like landscape of the nebula is sculpted by the action of outflowing winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation from the monster stars that inhabit this inferno. In the process, these stars are shredding the surrounding material that is the last vestige of the giant cloud from which the stars were born.
The immense nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina the Keel.
Another part of the Carina Nebular shows a craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds. This Hubble Space Telescope image captures the chaotic activity atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.
A cosmic rose: interacting galaxies
Two misshapen spiral galaxies combine to form a beautiful celestial flower in this image of Arp 273 released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The gravitational attraction between these two galaxies has created their physical distortions. It is thought that the smaller galaxy has actually passed through the larger one.
Messier 101 (M101)
One of the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy, Messier 101 (M101) ever been released from Hubble.
The galaxy's portrait is actually composed of 51 individual Hubble exposures, in addition to elements from images from ground-based photos. The final composite image measures a whopping 16,000 by 12,000 pixels.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot
The Hubble Space Telescope provides flyby-class images of planets in Earth's solar system. This shot of Jupiter shows its Great Red Spot (GRS), a storm big enough to swallow multiple Earths.
Located nearly 500 million miles away, Jupiter's atmosphere is a cauldron of activity including hundreds of rotating storms. The largest of these is the GRS, which is in fact the largest storm in the entire solar system.
Three of Jupiter's largest moons
In this sequence of photos, Hubble captures a rare look at three of Jupiter's largest moons, and their shadows, parading across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto, and Io.
Orion Nebula’s Little Brother
The Hubble Space Telescope took a close-up view of an outer part of the Orion Nebula's little brother, a vast cloud known as Messier 43. The Orion molecular cloud complex is about 1,400 light-years away, making it one of the closest massive star formation regions to Earth.
Approaching the sun, Comet ISON floats against a seemingly infinite backdrop of numerous galaxies and a handful of foreground stars.
The icy visitor, with its long gossamer tail, appears to be swimming like a tadpole through a deep pond of celestial wonders.
This is the first in a sequence of four pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys that captures dramatic changes during a stellar outburst in January 2002. The image was taken December 17, 2002.
The image is combined from exposures taken through blue (B), green (V), and infrared (I) filters.
Galactic wreckage: Stephan' Quintet
Named after French astronomer Édouard Stephan, Stephan's Quintet was photographed by the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Stephan's Quintet, also known as the Hickson Compact Group 92, is a group of five galaxies, but one member of the quintet is actually much closer to us than the others.
The imposter is easy to pick out because it looks different than the others in this image.
The iconic Horsehead Nebula in the constellation Orion has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery over a century ago. This image highlights infrared wavelengths, giving the nebula a more ethereal look than more traditional, and shadowy, visible wavelength views.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
This portrait of our universe's history is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which includes thousands of galaxies glowing in visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. Some of the galaxies are more than 13 billion light-years away.
Like looking through a vast collection of family photos, astronomers are poring over this comprehensive image to see how galaxies grew up, matured, and aged.The image, released in 2014, combines hundreds of hours of observations made from 2002 to 2012 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3.
These two spiral galaxies, drawn together by gravity, started to interact a few hundred million years ago.
The Antennae Galaxies are the nearest and youngest examples of a pair of colliding galaxies.
The Cat's Eye Nebula
The Cat's Eye Nebula is a planetary nebulae, the death throes of a star blowing off its outer atmosphere into space.
The Cat's Eye is one of the first planetary nebulae discovery and features 11 rings, or shells, of gas surrounding the parent star. It's estimated to be 1,000 years old.
Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust storms above a vivid rusty landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic planet in this sharpest view ever obtained.
The Hubble Space Telescope took this closeup of the red planet June 26, 2001 when Mars was approximately 43 million miles from Earth. It is the sharpest view of the red planet ever taken from the vicinity of Earth.
One large storm system is churning high above the northern polar cap (top of image) with a smaller storm cloud nearby.
Easily visible in even small amateur telescopes, the Ring Nebula shows up in all its glory in this composite view combining visible-light observations from Hubble with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. The ring is another planetary nebular made up of gas blown off its parent star.
Planetary nebula: NGC 5189
Yet another planetary nebula is the festive-looking NGC 5189.
The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.
Hubble's image is the most detailed yet made of this object.
Denoted N 63A
This Hubble Telescope image shows supernova remnant, Denoted N 63A, the remains of a massive star that exploded, spewing its gaseous layers out into an already turbulent region.
Supernova remnants have long been thought to set off episodes of star formation when their expanding shock encounters nearby gas. Hubble images have illustrated, N 63A is still young and its ruthless shocks have destroyed the ambient gas clouds, rather than coercing them to collapse and form stars.
Credit: NASA/ESA/HEIC/The Hubble Heritage Team
Saturn's stormy aurorae
The Hubble Space Telescope captured images of auroras dancing lights on Saturn's north pole in April and May 2013. Some of the bursts of light visible shooting around Saturn's polar regions traveled at speeds over three times faster than the gas giant's rotation.
Barred spiral galaxy: NGC 1073
Hubble provided a particularly clear view of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073 found in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). Many spiral galaxies have a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars.
The Milky Way is a similar barred spiral galaxy. The study of galaxies such as NGC 1073 helps astronomers learn more about our home.
Celestial prologue: IRAS 13208-6020
The two billowing structures in this Hubble Space Telescope image of IRAS 13208-6020 are formed from material that is shed by a central star.
Unlike a full-fledged planetary nebula, in which gas thrown off from a central star is heated and glows by its own light, this protoplanetary nebula glows by reflected light. It is a relatively short-lived phenomenon that gives astronomers an opportunity to watch the early stages of planetary nebula formation.
Core of Omega Centauri
This crowded field of stars, resembling a dazzling display of holiday lights, lies in the heart of a giant stellar swarm known as Omega Centauri.
A collection of nearly ten million stars in all, Omega Centauri is the largest of about 150 "globular clusters" that orbit the core of the Milky Way.
"Black Eye" galaxy
A collision of two galaxies left a merged star system with an unusual appearance as well as bizarre internal motions.
Messier 64 (M64) has a spectacular dark band of light-absorbing dust in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus, giving rise to its nicknames the "Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy.
Credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team
This youngest-known supernova remnant in our galaxy lies 10,000 light years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. The light from this exploding star first reached Earth in the 1600s.
Credit: NASA/The Hubble Heritage Team
Blue compact dwarf galaxy
The bright streak of glowing gas and stars in this Hubble Space Telescope image is known as PGC 51017, or SBSG 1415+437. It is a type of galaxy known as a blue compact dwarf.
Astronomers initially thought that SBS 1415+437 was a very young galaxy currently undergoing its very first burst of star formation, but more recent studies suggests the galaxy is, in fact, a little older, containing stars over 1.3 billion years old.
Two cones of matter are being ejected from the central star of the Boomerang Nebula.
Measurements made in 1995 show the deep interior of the nebula to have a temperature of just one degree above absolute zero, making it one of the coldest known places in the universe.