The Hubble Space Telescope, launched on April 25, 1990 and is now celebrating its 25th birthday, is one of humanity’s greatest inventions in the modern world. It still remains in operation up to this day, and NASA says it still has about a decade left in service before entering retirement. It measures 2.4 meters in diameter, with a 57.6 meters focal length, and has a collecting area of 4.5 square meters. Having costed over $2.5 billion to construct, and over $10 billion to maintain and operate, the Hubble Space Telescope is arguably the world’s most expensive and most capable telescope, even at 25!
To celebrate this wonderful milestone in the life of the Hubble, NASA has released a list of the telescope’s best captured images to date. Here we pick some of the more awesome of the list for you to drool over.
Pillars Of Creation
This image, taken on April 1, 1995, is one of the most iconic images produced by Hubble. The beautiful pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, a star-forming region estimated to be 6,500 light-years away from Earth.
M106, also known as NGC 4258, is approximately 23.5 million light-years away from Earth and is found in the constellation Canes Venatici. Astrophotographer Robert Gendler combined photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope and his own to assemble this photo illustration.
The Orion Nebula
1,300 light-years away, the Orion Nebula is considered by scientists to be the nearest star-forming area to Earth. On this image, more than 3,000 stars are estimated to be present. 520 different Hubble images, taken in five different colors using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, were used to make this composite image. This photo is widely considered to be one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced.
This photograph, according to NASA, is the largest and sharpest ever image of the Andromeda galaxy. Over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters are shown in this photo, which are embedded in a section of the galaxy’s 40,000 light-year, pancake-shaped disc.
The Sombrero Galaxy
This beautiful photograph is of the Sombrero Galaxy, aka Messier 104. Its most prominent feature is the brilliant white, bulbous core surrounded by a thick cloud of dust lanes that comprises the spiral structure of the galaxy. Equivalent to 800 billion suns, the Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the group’s most massive objects. It is located 28 million light-years from Earth.
Barred Spiral Galaxy
Also one of the largest galaxy images the Hubble has ever produced, NGC 1300 is an example of a barred spiral galaxy. It differs from a typical spiral galaxy in its arms, which do not spiral all the way to center but instead are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of star, with the nucleus at its center.
Lying within the Carina Nebula, 7,500 light-years away, this image is a chaotic activity that sees a three light-year tall pillar of gas and dust being eaten away by the light from nearby, brighter stars. From within, the pillar is also being assaulted by infant stars buried inside firing off jets of gas that is seen in the image as outward streams of light.
The Most Colorful View of the Universe
Using the Hubble, astronomers at NASA has made this comprehensive image of the ever evolving universe. Using separate exposures taken between 2002 and 2012 via the telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3, the resulting image contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, dating back to a few hundred million years prior to the big bang.
Aka NGC 5128, this galaxy is best known for its dramatic dusty lanes of dark material. The Hubble Space Telescope have been combined here a multi-wavelength image which reveals never-before-seen detail in the dusty portion of the galaxy.
Galaxy M51, or NGC 5194, are your typical spiral galaxy, with the arms made of long lanes of stars, gas and dust. In this sharpest-ever image by the Hubble, the galaxy’s grand design of curving spiral arms (where the young stars are) and yellowish central core (where the oldie stars are) are illustrated dramatically for the astronomer in us to appreciate.