NASA Unveils Breathtaking Image to Mark Hubble's Anniversary

NASA Unveils Breathtaking Image to Mark Hubble's Anniversary

NASA unveiled today the image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope that it chose to serve as the official commemoration of Hubble’s 25th Anniversary.  The image is of a giant cluster of 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2.  Hubble was launched on the space shuttle 25 years ago tomorrow.

The breathtaking image was taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 of a “raucous breeding ground known as Gum 29” that was discovered by Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund in the 1960s.  Located 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina, the cluster is between 6 and 13 light years in diameter.


Hubble image of Westerlund 2.  Photo credit:  NASA press release

A zoomable version of the image is available at the “Hubblesite” website.

Hubble is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).  Astronauts visited Hubble five times to repair or replace equipment.  

NASA is now building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch on ESA’s Ariane rocket in October 2018.  Although JWST is designed to see the universe in infrared (IR) wavelengths (Hubble is predominantly visible wavelengths, with some capability in the IR and ultraviolet bands), it is usually referred to as Hubble’s successor because it will delve ever more deeply into some of the universe’s most tightly held secrets.  Unlike the Earth-orbiting Hubble, JWST will be positioned far from Earth at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point and is not designed to be serviced by astronauts.

NASA hopes Hubble will continue operating until at least 2020 so there will be an overlap between its observations and those of JWST.

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