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Celebrate Hubble Space Telescope’s 30th birthday with a look at some of its best pictures

Charlotte Edwards, April 27, 2020 7:00PM The Sun

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Hubble Space Telescope, launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990. Picture: NASA/ESA media_cameraHubble Space Telescope, launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990. Picture: NASA/ESA

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The Hubble Space Telescope has reached its 30th year in orbit and NASA is celebrating along with fans all over the world.

Over the past three decades the telescope has been beaming amazing images of space back to Earth.

The images and information Hubble has collected so far have changed and improved our understanding of the universe.

As part of the birthday celebrations, NASA has launched a web page that allows you to see a photo the telescope took on your birthday.

Here are some of Hubble’s best photos. Which is your favourite?

EXPLODING STARS
This image below is of the remains of a huge, ancient supernova*.

Every so often, large stars collapse from vast clouds, igniting and creating heavy elements in their cores.

After a few million years, this material is blasted out into interstellar space – beginning star formation all over again.

The expanding debris cloud named Cassiopeia A is a great example of this, taking place nearly 12,000 years ago.

It’s the youngest known supernova remnant in our Milky Way galaxy.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraA view of the aftermath of a colourful stellar explosion. Picture: NASA

A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY
Below is Triangulum, a 40 billion-star galaxy and one of the most distant objects that can be seen from Earth.

NASA said the photo is the most detailed image yet of the neighbouring object, which sits three million light-years* from the Milky Way.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe nearby Triangulum galaxy is packed with 40 billion stars. Picture: NASA/ESA

JUPITER STORMS
This stunning photo of Jupiter clearly shows an enormous “mega-storm” swirling above the surface.

The so-called Great Red Spot is wider than the Earth, with winds reaching 684kmh.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe storm is the orange/red spot near the centre.

GALAXY OPTICAL ILLUSION
Astronomers spotted a galaxy in the distant universe that appears duplicated on the night sky at least 12 times.

The unusual sight was captured using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and could give scientists a better understanding of the early universe.

The galaxy appearing multiple times in the image has been nicknamed the Sunburst Arc.

It’s almost 11 billion light-years away.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe four arcs contain multiple illusions of the Sunburst Arc galaxy. Picture: ESA/Hubble

ASTEROID PHOTOBOMB*
The telescope even captured this stunning galactic* “photobomb” that shows an asteroid streaking past the Crab Nebula.

The original image was uploaded in black and white, but volunteer astronomer Melina Thévenot converted it to colour.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe galactic “photobomb” that shows an asteroid streaking past the Crab Nebula.

‘GHOSTLY FACE’
This ghostly face was pictured staring back at us from deep space.

It’s actually a rare image of a galactic collision.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThis image of a “ghostly face” was released just days before Halloween. Picture: ESA/Hubble

MYSTIC MOUNTAIN
This snap shows a chaotic three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust.

It lies within the Carina Nebula, which is around 7500 light-years away.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe chaotic three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust. Picture: NASA

HORSEHEAD NEBULA
This snap was captured by the telescope in 2013.

It’s thought that this Nebula has about five million years left before it disintegrates*.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe Horsehead Nebula in infra-red light. Picture: NASA

WHIRLPOOL GALAXY
The ‘Whirlpool galaxy’ got its nickname because of its swirling structure.

Its arms are referred to as star-formation factories because hydrogen gas is said to be compressed in these regions and makes new star clusters.

This image was taken in 2005.

NASA has released images to celebrate Hubble's 30th year media_cameraThe galaxy’s real name is Galaxy Messier 51 (M51). Picture: NASA

FAST FACTS
The Hubble Space Telescope captures images while in space.

It was launched into a low-Earth orbit in 1990.

The advantage of Hubble is that it takes photos from outside of Earth’s atmosphere, which means distortion from the atmosphere is removed, so images are more accurate.

NASA’s Hubble has captured some of the most detailed images of space ever recorded.

Hubble was also able to accurately determine the rate at which the universe was expanding.

Hubble is the only telescope that was designed to be serviced by astronauts in space.

Five different missions have been launched to repair, upgrade or replace parts of the Hubble telescope.

It’s believed that the Hubble telescope could continue working until 2040.

Its successor – the James Webb Space Telescope – is set for launch in March 2021.

This story was first published on The Sun and is republished with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • supernova: explosion of a star, the biggest type of explosion humans have ever seen
  • light-years: the distance light travels in one year
  • photobomb: something or someone that accidentally comes into a photo of something else
  • galactic: relating to a galaxy, sometimes the Milky Way
  • disintegrates: falls apart into nothing

EXTRA READING

Space telescope spies massive storm on Jupiter

NASA search for beginning of universe

Astronomers find 20 new Saturn moons

‘Forbidden’ exoplanet found in space

QUICK QUIZ

  1. When did the Hubble launch?
  2. Where is it?
  3. What happens when something on the Hubble breaks?
  4. What will replace the Hubble Space Telescope?
  5. How long could Hubble keep working for?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Happy Birthday
Write a Happy Birthday message to the Hubble Telescope. Use information from the article to help you make the birthday message personal.

Present the birthday message on your favourite image from the article. Copy it and paste it into your own document. (Make sure you include a note at the bottom of the photo to say where the photo came from.) Explain why this is your favourite image.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Technology – Design & Technology

2. Extension
Visit the NASA website to see the photos taken on your birthday. With parent/guardian permission, copy and paste the following link into your search engine.

https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/what-did-hubble-see-on-your-birthday

Scroll down until you find the boxes that say SELECT MONTH and SELECT DATE. Input your birthdate and click submit.

Look at the photo taken on your birthday. What are your first impressions? What does it remind you of?

Can you describe the photo to someone? Choose three interesting words that help to describe the photo.

Look up some other photos taken on your family members birthdays. How would you describe these photos?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Technology – Design & Technology

VCOP ACTIVITY
Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).

Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?

What are they?

Can you sort them into their categories?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Which is your favourite Hubble image?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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