Hubble Finds Where the Super Stars Live
NASA, ESA, P Crowther/University of Sheffield
The young, dense star cluster R136, lower right, is home to the largest collection of the universe’s most massive stars. The cluster is located in the central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellantic Cloud.
As part of Science Channel Weekend,Discovery Channel will premiere "Telescope" on Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
, a "dynamic journey behind the scenes of the next step in the evolution of telescopes: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope," directed by Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn. This next-generation telescope will be 100 times more powerful than the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, but Hubble, which has been observing the cosmos for quarter of a century, continues to dazzle us with stunning views of the universe.Top 10 Astronomical Discoveries Of All Time
As we look forward to the revolutionary James Webb, let's take a look back over the past 12 months of discoveries made by the most famous space telescope of all time.
Hubble is famed for the deep views of the cosmos it is able to generate, seeing some of the earliest galaxies that formed billions of years ago. But with the help of a spacetime quirk, as predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago, Hubble is now using gravitational lensing as a means to superboost its vision even further. As part of the Frontier Fields project, this observation revealed hundreds of baby galaxies never before seen, from just 600 million years after the Big Bang.MORE: Hubble Sees 'First Light' Galaxies at Dawn of Time
Galaxies are certainly Hubble's "thing" and these last 12 months have been no different. Seen here is one such galaxy, but it can't be easily categorized; it's neither elliptical or spiral, it is "irregular." Though they don't seem to conform to specific formation rules, irregular galaxies are still beautiful, as this example shows.MORE: Hubble Spies on a Beautifully Messed-Up Galaxy
ESA/HUBBLE & NASA, D. PADGETT (GSFC), T. MEGEATH (UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO), AND B. REIPURTH (UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII)
Not to be left out on 2015's feverish buildup to "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" in December, Hubble released this very sci-fi view of a Herbig-Haro (HH) object -- basically a violent young star. This particular example seems to be channeling its own Star Wars spirit, producing a double-bladed lightsabre.MORE: 'The Force' Awakens in Star's 'Lightsaber' Jets
NASA & ESA and P. Kelly (University of California, Berkeley)
First observed in 2014, this ancient supernova has popped up three more times, in different locations in a galactic cluster. This quirk of spacetime -- gravitational lensing -- can cause beams of light to travel different paths around massive objects. Sometimes, as Hubble has shown, although they all originate from the same source, 4 points of light can appear as a cross (nicknamed an "Einstein Cross").MORE: Hubble's 'Einstein Cross' Supernova Strikes Back
NASA, ESA, A. SIMON (GSFC), M. WONG (UC BERKELEY), AND G. ORTON (JPL-CALTECH)
Not forgetting the objects in our own backyard, Hubble was commanded to spend 10 hours looking at the biggest planet in our solar system, revealing previously unseen detail in the gas giant's beautiful atmosphere. Watch Jupiter's Big Red Spot rage in one of the most stunning 2-frame animations of the year.MORE: Hubble's Jupiter Maps Reveal Weird Structures
NASA, ESA, AND E. MEYER (STSCI)
Ready for some hard core physics? Though Hubble can't technically "see" black holes themselves, it can certainly see their impact on local space. And in this case, the space telescope saw relativistic shocks in the flow of material blasting from a supermassive black hole 260 million light-years from Earth.MORE: Hubble Witness to Relativistic Crash in a Black Hole Jet
NASA, ESA, AND THE HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM (STSCI/AURA)
In new images released by Hubble, some stunning detail in the nebulous aftermath of a supernova has been revealed. Shown here is the cooling plasma in the Veil Nebula, the remnant of a star that exploded 8,000 years ago.MORE: Hubble Zooms-in on Veil Nebula's Shocked Tendrils
In April 2015, Hubble officially turned 25 years old and to celebrate this view of the star-forming region in the cluster Westerlund 2 in the Gum 29 interstellar cloud nebula was released. In the observation is a 2 million year-old cluster of around 3,000 stars that are in the process of being born.MORE: Stunning Hubble Silver Anniversary Picture Unveiled
Like all good parties, there's going to be some damage. And this is certainly the case for the young bright stars inside the open cluster Trumpler 14 where a huge void is being blasted into a star-forming nebula by the baby stars it once nurtured.MORE: Hubble Sees Stellar Block Party Rip-Up Neighborhood
You may remember Hubble's early observations of the "Pillars Of Creation" that featured giant columns of dust and gas, beaded with young stars in their stellar cocoons. Now Hubble has revisited the Pillars to reveal a new 3-D view showing us a lot more spatial detail in this famous photo.MORE: Stunning 3-D View of Hubble's Famous 'Pillars of Creation'
Hubble has shown itself to be very adept at discovering planets orbiting other stars and the stellar disks they are birthed from. In these new observations of the young star Beta Pictoris' protoplanetary disk, a strange stirring was detected in the disk's dust -- revealing the presence of an otherwise invisible giant exoplanet.MORE: Hubble Watches Massive Exoplanet Stir Stellar Dust
Trapped in a vast, empty region of the universe this galaxy seems to be the loneliest galaxy in the universe. Voids are known to exist throughout the cosmos, flanked by a "web" of dark matter and galaxies, but they are not
empty. Often, as this elegant spiral galaxy shows, entire galaxies can become marooned and there is little idea as to whether they were born there, alone, or flung there billions of years after some massive gravitational upheaval.MORE: Is This the Loneliest Galaxy In the Universe?
Curious where the super stars live? Head in the direction of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud and keep going for 170,000 light-years. There you’ll find dozens of stars that are 50 times bigger than the sun and nine monster stars 100 times more massive than the sun.
“Together, these nine stars outshine the sun by a factor of 30 million,” notes the European Space Agency in a press release about the discovery, which is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The most massive star in the universe, known as R136a1, is more than 250 times bigger than the sun.
An international team of scientists discovered the nine bigwigs by combining Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 pictures with high-resolution ultraviolet imagery collected by Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS instrument.
The discovery is expected to fuel debate about how such massive stars come to exist.
“There have been suggestions that these monsters result from the merger of less extreme stars in close binary systems. From what we know about the frequency of massive mergers, this scenario can’t account for all the really massive stars that we see in R136,” University of Sheffield astronomer Saida Caballero-Nieves said in a statement.
STIS data also showed that the giant stars are losing mass rapidly, ejecting the equivalent mass of Earth every month.