When NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, it was with the continuing ambition to learn more about the universe beyond the confines of planet Earth.
2018 marks the 28th anniversary of Hubble's launch and two new images of the Lagoon Nebula have been released. It's a testament to the telescope's longevity and continuous innovation, according to folks like Antonella Nota, one of Hubble's many project specialists.
She spoke to WECT's Gabe Ross about the new images, and what they show.
"What you see here is a zoom in, in the heart of this nebula, where you can see a very massive star with powerful winds shaping the gas and the dust, and creating the beautiful columns and features," said Nota. "But then, when you look in the infrared, all that dust and gas goes away. What you see is hundreds and hundreds of baby stars just being formed because what you're looking at right now is a giant stellar nursery."
Wondering where to find the Lagoon Nebula? You'll want to look to the southern sky in the Sagittarius constellation.
Most importantly, you need a very clear and dark night. The bright stars that make up the nebula sit high atop the teapot-shaped constellation. You'll need a powerful telescope, but if you don't have one, don't worry. The Hubble's advanced lens paints a breathtaking portrait in all its cosmic magnificence.
"Hubble has completely revolutionized our understanding of the universe," Nota said. "Hubble has also shown us how stars are formed. Like we just discussed with the Lagoon Nebula, you can see in almost three dimensions. You can see the tiny little stars forming out of their cocoon of dust and gas."
In 28 years, astronauts have performed five missions to upgrade technology aboard the telescope. These upgrades have resulted in some interesting discoveries in far away places.
"Very recently we had a very interesting discovery," Nota said. "Hubble saw the farthest star ever seen, nine billion light years away. We would not be able to see the stars in normal conditions because even for Hubble, that's a stretch. But Hubble got some help from gravitational lensing."