Spectacular Lagoon Nebula Glows in Hubble's 28th Birthday Photos


Indeed, the visible-light image - which Hubble took with its Wide Field Camera 3 instrument this past February - shows a central patch of the nebula just 4 light-years across.

The Lagoon Nebula is a hub of stars being born, and it's 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall.

Since its launch on 24 April 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionised nearly every area of observational astronomy.

Now, to mark the 28th anniversary of the Hubble's historic launch, NASA is giving us a peek into a vast stellar nursery, the Lagoon Nebula. The most obvious difference between Hubble's infrared and visible images of this region is the abundance of stars that fill the field of view in the infrared. Astronauts have performed five servicing missions to install more advanced technology on Hubble over its lifetime, making it possible for the telescope to continue pushing the boundaries of exploration.

The Lagoon Nebula resides in the Sagittarius constellation and is truly a colossal object, as it's 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall.

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This only a taste of what the Lagoon Nebula is hiding beneath a shroud of cosmic dust and clouds. But the interesting part is that the Hubble managed to trace an important event happening at the inner Lagoon Nebula.

The hefty star is 32 times more massive and eight times hotter than our Sun.

The giant star, called Herschel 36, is bursting out of its natal cocoon of material, unleashing blistering radiation and torrential stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) that push dust away in curtain-like sheets.

It's 200,000 times brighter than our sun, but if you looked at it with binoculars you would only see a smudge of light with a bright core.

This causes the gas to shine brightly and transform into "ghostly and otherworldly shapes". Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star's standards, only 1 million years old.

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Among the sculptures created by Herschel 36 are two interstellar twisters - eerie, rope-like structures that each measure half a light-year in length.

"The stars right at the middle of the infrared image are brand new stars".

NASA/ESA caption: To celebrate its 28th anniversary in space the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope took this wonderful and colourful image of the Lagoon Nebula.

Only by combining optical and infrared data can astronomers paint a complete picture of the ongoing processes in the nebula.

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