Celestial fireworks mark happy birthday for Hubble telescope

Washington: NASA has unveiled stunning celestial fireworks as an official image to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its Hubble space telescope that was launched on April 24, 1990.

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the image taken by Hubble.

“Hubble has completely transformed our view of the universe, revealing the true beauty and richness of the cosmos,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of the NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science, he added.

The sparkling centrepiece of Hubble’s anniversary fireworks is a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2 — named for Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund who discovered the grouping in the 1960s.

The cluster resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29 – located 20,000 light-years away from the Earth in the constellation Carina.

To capture this image, Hubble’s near-infrared Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding the stellar nursery, giving astronomers a clear view of the nebula and the dense concentration of stars in the central cluster.

The cluster measures between six and 13 light-years across.

The giant star cluster is about two million years old and contains some of our galaxy’s hottest, brightest and most massive stars.

Some of its heftiest stars unleash torrents of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds of charged particles etching into the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud.

The nebula reveals a fantasy landscape of pillars, ridges and valleys.

The pillars, composed of dense gas and thought to be incubators for new stars, are a few light-years tall and point to the central star cluster.

Other dense regions surround the pillars, including reddish-brown filaments of gas and dust, the US space agency said in a statement.

Because the cluster is very young – in astronomical terms – it has not had time to disperse its stars deep into interstellar space, providing astronomers with an opportunity to gather information on how the cluster formed by studying it within its star-birthing environment.