Hubble Telescope Captures Stunning Blue Cosmic Bubbles For 26th Birthday

Anya Wassenberg

The Hubble Telescope found a cosmic bubble for its birthday by releasing a spectacular image of the Bubble Nebula. The Hubble Telescope team took the anniversary image to commemorate 26 years in orbit.

The multinational NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope team captured the vast Bubble Nebula by making a composite of four images, using the Wide Field Camera 3 or WFC3. While the Hubble Telescope has taken partial images of the fascinating formation in the past, this represents the first time the Bubble Nebula has been captured in a single image.

The Bubble Nebula lives up to its name with a markedly rounded and nearly symmetrical shape, as seen in the Hubble Telescope image. That rounding effect comes about because it lies in the path of a stellar wind originating from a bright star nearby, which can be seen to the upper left of the image. A stellar wind is a blast of gas that comes from the upper atmosphere of a star. The more massive the star, the more gas that is ejected. The Bubble Nebula lies close to the star known as SAO 20575, which has a mass 10 to 20 times that of the sun.

"The cloud gets denser and denser as you get to closer to its center, so at some point the cloud will be too dense for the weaker and weaker solar wind to push even further."

The scale of the objects that the Hubble Telescope can view and then document in images is immense. A close-up view from the Hubble Telescope of the star inside the Bubble Nebula reveals several objects called cometary knots that surround it. Cometary knots look like comets with a small tail but are actually thought to be planetary nebulae or dying stars. As captured by the Hubble Telescope, they are small crescent-shaped formations with a tail lit up by the bright star SAO 20575. Each of these cometary knots are typically larger than our whole solar system.

The Hubble Telescope was the first of its kind and has been stunning the global public with a stream of mind-bending images since shortly after its launch on April 24, 1990.

[Image via NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team]