NASA has released incredible new images of the Lagoon Nebula taken by the Hubble space telescope, in honour of its 28th anniversary.
Pretty view of the Lagoon Nebula. Image: NASA, ESA, and STScI
These images show the Lagoon Nebula, just 4000 light-years away, in intense detail. Hubble imaged the star-forming region both in visible light and infrared, with the latter allowing scientists to cut through the dust to peer at the stars forming inside. And the new views really show off Hubble's abilities.
Visible light (left) and infrared (right) images of the Lagoon Nebula. Image: NASA, ESA and STScI
"This thing is huge on the sky, about five times the size of the full moon, but it's mostly too dim for our eyes to see," NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller told Gizmodo. "It looks like a smudge with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, but when the Hubble looks at it, it's an incredibly beautiful, twisting tornado-like structure of dark dust."
More like infrarad.
The Hubble spacecraft first launched in in 1990, and from its orbit around Earth it captures both visible and infrared light to study the night sky. It takes images in single wavelengths, which represent light emissions from different species of atoms. Scientists then process these images by mapping each light emission to a different colour in order to create the image you're seeing. More about that here.
Three pillars of gas and dust sit among stars like towers of billowing smoke. It would take several years for light to cross from the top to the bottom of these dusty columns. This striking image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope remains, to this day, one of the most well-known astronomical images ever taken.
While 28 years might sound old for a science experiment, Hubble is still pumping out results. Just this year it captured the most distant single star yet, learned more about a strange stellar ring, watched two galaxies merge, and created a lot of new images of the Messier objects, the distant smudges first described by astronomer Charles Messier in the 18th century.