The Orion Nebula is 1,500 light-years from Earth and is located in Orion’s Belt in the constellation Orion. It’s one of the brightest nebulae — and on a clear, dark night it’s visible to the naked eye. The nebula is Earth’s nearest star-forming region.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched from the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.
Hubble has given us many images of our neighbor Mars. This image was taken in 2003 when Mars made its closest approach in nearly 60,000 years. On August 27, 2003, the two worlds were only 34.6 million miles apart from center to center. By contrast, Mars can be about 249 million miles away from Earth.
Hubble snapped this image in 2007 of Ganymede appearing to peek out from beneath Jupiter. Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system, and it’s even bigger than Mercury.
Hubble captured this image of Saturn in 2004, a view so sharp that some of the planet’s smaller rings are visible.
Hubble tracked clouds on Uranus in this image taken in 1997. The image is a composite of three near-infrared images. The planet’s rings are prominent in the near infrared. Eight of Uranus’ 27 moons can be seen in both images. Uranus is about 1.75 billion miles from Earth.
Hubble captured this image of the distant blue-green world Neptune in 2005. Fourteen different colored filters were used to help scientists learn more about Neptune’s atmosphere. Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles from Earth.
Hubble discovered four of Pluto’s five moons. In 2005: Nix and Hydra were found. Hubble discovered Kerberos in 2011 and Styx in 2012. The new discoveries joined Pluto’s large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978. Styx was found by scientists using Hubble to search for potential hazards for the New Horizons spacecraft which flew by Pluto in July 2015. Pluto is about 2.9 billion miles from Earth.
The iconic Horsehead Nebula is a favorite target for astronomers. Look carefully and you’ll see what looks like the head of a horse rising into the stars. This Hubble image captures the nebula in infrared wavelengths. The nebula is 1,600 light-years from Earth.
The Cat’s Eye Nebula is a bunch of glowing gases kicked out into space by a dying star. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows details of structures including jets of high-speed gas and unusual knots of gas. This color picture is a composite of three images taken at different wavelengths. The nebula is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It’s about 3,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Draco.
The Bug, or Butterfly Nebula looks like a butterfly with its wings stretching across the galaxy. It’s actually a cloud of roiling gas shed by a dying star. Scientists say the gas is more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is expanding into space at more than 600,000 miles an hour. This image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, a camera installed on Hubble during its May 2009 upgrade by shuttle astronauts. The nebula is about 3,800 light years away in the constellation Scorpius.
Astronomers combined several Hubble images taken in 2014 to create an upgraded view of the Hubble’s iconic 1995 “Pillars of Creation” image. The new image shows a wider view of the pillars, which stretch about 5 light-years high. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, which is about 6,500 light years from Earth.
This huge nebula is 7,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Carina. It’s one of the largest and brightest nebulas and is a nursery for new stars. It also has several stars estimated to be at least 50 to 100 times the mass of our Sun, including Eta Carinae, one of the brightest stars known and one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
One of the closest neighbors to our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, can be seen with the naked eye if you know where to look on a clear, dark night. In 2012, scientists using data from Hubble predicted Andromeda would collide with the Milky Way in about four billion years. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from Earth.
The Cigar Galaxy is 12 million light years away. It gets its name from its shape: From Earth it looks like an elongated elliptical disc.
It’s called one of the most photogenic galaxies: The Sombrero Galaxy looks like the giant broad rim of a Mexican hat sitting out among the stars. It can be spotted using a small telescope. It’s about 28 million light years from Earth.
This group of galaxies is about 290 million light years from Earth. It’s named for its discoverer, French astronomer Edouard Stephan, who first spotted it in 1877.
Hubble captured this image of a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The bigger galaxy has a center disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the pull from its partner below.
In 2004, astronomers unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken to date. Called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, the million-second-long exposure shows the first galaxies to emerge shortly after the Big Bang. The image shows an estimated 10,000 galaxies. In 2012, astronomers assembled an upgraded image called the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field. It combined 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. The new image contains about 5,500 galaxies.
This 2018 Hubble image shows the Lagoon Nebula, a chaotic nursery full of baby stars. At the center of this image, a young star 200,000 times brighter than our sun blasts out ultraviolet radiation.
Even stars like to blow bubbles. This 2016 image shares Hubble’s view of the Bubble Nebula, where a superhot, massive star is blowing a giant bubble into space. The nebula is 7 light-years across.
The Cone Nebula is a turbulent star-forming pillar of gas and dust. It’s 7 light-years long, but this image taken by Hubble in 2002 shows the top 2.5 light-years (which equals 23 million round trips to the moon). Ultraviolet radiation causes the hydrogen gas to emit an eerie red glow.
This is a detailed look at the section of a slowly expanding supernova, or the remains of an exploded star. Hubble took this image in 2015 of the Veil Nebula 2,100 light-years away. The star was once 20 times more massive than our sun, but only wisps of gas remain.
In 2009, NASA’s Great Observatories, including Hubble along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, combined their observational power to create this unprecedented composite image of our Milky Way galaxy’s center. Infrared and X-ray light captured by the telescopes can be seen here. Hubble’s contributions are in yellow, Spitzer’s observations are in red and Chandra’s are blue and violet.
Hubble also teamed up with Spitzer to create this stunning image of the Orion Nebula in 2006. The image combines visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. A community of massive stars is represented by the yellow at the heart of the image.
Hubble captured this view of an expanding light halo around the star V838 Monocerotis in 2004.
M83 is a nearby spiral galaxy, and this 2014 Hubble image showcases its thousands of clusters of stars and supernova remnants. The young stars can be seen in pink bubbles of hydrogen gas.
This infrared light image taken by Hubble in 2014 shows the Monkey Head Nebula, where starbirth is occurring 6,400 light-years away from us. Dust clouds and glowing gas swirl together here, representing the ingredients for forming stars.
This ultraviolet light observation of the giant Eta Carinae star was taken by Hubble in 2019. The star is the larger out of two that orbit each other. It’s known to have violent outbursts, as evidenced by the bubbles here.
Fireworks are even more beautiful in space. Hubble captured this image of a giant cluster of 3,000 stars in 2015. It’s called Westerlund 2, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth.