Monday, January 11, 2010

Looking At the Real "Big Picture"

   Ever since the Hubble Space Telescope went operational in 1990, we have been receiving some of the clearest images yet of the universe outside our own solar system. Since the telescope is in orbit and outside of the light contamination that obscures earth-bound observatories, Hubble allows us to look at galaxies, nebulae, and other astronomical phenonema at the far reaches of space. On this 20th anniversary of Hubble, let's take a look at some of the incredible images we have received since its launch.

Looking at pictures of other galaxies is pretty humbling. Our own solar system is located far out on the edges of our own galaxy. What we call the Milky Way is our view towards the center of our spiral galaxy.

One of the most widely published Hubble images is this shot of the Eagle Nebula (catalogued as Messier 16 or M16, and as NGC 6611)which is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens. This formation has come to be known as the "Pillars of Creation."

The formation labelled Mz 3 (Menzel 3) has two hourglass-shaped clouds and radiating streams of gas. Because of its shape, the formation is known as the "Ant Nebula".

The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant and pulsar wind nebula in the constellation of Taurus.

A wider view of the Eagle Nebula shown above.

The Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392), also known as the Clownface Nebula, is a bipolar double-shell planetary nebula.

The Horsehead Nebula is a dark nebula in the constellation Orion It is one of the most identifiable nebulae because of the shape of its swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, which is similar to that of a horse's head.

NGC 602 is a young, bright open cluster of stars located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way.

The Black Eye Galaxy (also called Sleeping Beauty Galaxy) was discovered by Edward Pigott in March 1779.

NGC 1232 is an intermediate spiral galaxy about 70 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus.

NGC 3982 is an intermediate spiral galaxy located about 68 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Dipper).

The Trifid Nebula is located in Sagittarius. Its name means 'divided into three lobes'.

The Elephant's Trunk nebula is a concentration of interstellar gas and dust in the star cluster IC 1396.

Unusual Spiral Galaxy M66

The Sombrero Galaxy is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero.

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