Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore
April 25, 2005
Hubble Celebrates 15th Anniversary with Spectacular New Images
During the 15 years NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has orbited the Earth, it has taken more than 750,000 photos of the cosmos; images that have awed, astounded and even confounded astronomers and the public.
NASA released new views today of two of the most well-known objects Hubble has ever observed: the Eagle Nebula and the Whirlpool Galaxy (spiral galaxy M51). These new images are among the largest and sharpest Hubble has ever taken. They were made with Hubble's newest camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The images are so incredibly sharp, they could be enlarged to billboard size and still retain stunning details.
For the 15th anniversary, scientists used the ACS to record a new region of the eerie-looking Eagle Nebula. The Eagle Nebula image reveals a tall, dense tower of gas being sculpted by ultraviolet light from a group of massive, hot stars. The new Whirlpool Galaxy image showcases the spiral galaxy's classic features, from its curving arms, where newborn stars reside, to its yellowish central core that serves as home for older stars. A feature of considerable interest is the companion galaxy located at the end of one of the spiral arms.
The mural-sized celestial images of the Eagle Nebula and Whirlpool Galaxy were unveiled today at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. More than 100 museums, planetariums, and science centers will also unveil these same images today.
The Space Shuttle Discovery placed the Hubble into Earth orbit on April 25, 1990, opening a new era in astronomy. For the first time, a large telescope that viewed in visible light orbited above Earth's distorting atmosphere, which blurs light, making images appear fuzzy.
After installation of a new camera and a device that compensated for an improperly ground mirror, images of planets, stars, galaxies, and nebula began pouring in – most up to 10 times sharper than delivered by any previous telescope.
Hubble has compiled a long list of scientific achievements since its launch. Hubble has:
--Helped astronomers calculate the precise age of the universe (13.7 billion years old)
--Helped confirm the existence of a strange form of energy called dark energy
--Detected small proto-galaxies that emitted their light when the universe was less than a billion years old
--Proved the existence of super-massive black holes
--Provided sharp views of a comet hitting Jupiter
--Showed the process of forming planetary systems is common throughout the galaxy
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) manages Hubble imagery. It is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space Telescope is an international cooperative activity between NASA and the European Space Agency.
For a list of the museums and other locations displaying the new 4-by-6-foot image of the Whirlpool Galaxy and the 3-by-6-foot image of the Eagle Nebula, visit:
Electronic image files and additional 15th anniversary information are available at:
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