Refurbished Hubble reveals cosmic wonder

A fully rejuvenated Hubble telescope kicked off its new life on Wednesday with a flurry of stunningly clear images of cosmic wonder, including a celestial "butterfly" and a "pillar of creation."

This NASA handout image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a panoramic view of a colorful assortment of stars residing in the crowded core of a giant star cluster.

The 10 images were the first deep space shots snapped by Hubble since it underwent repair during a May mission that left it with a new camera and spectrograph as well as fixed and spruced up scientific instruments.

The spectacular butterfly-like image is of a nebula -- a cloud of stellar dust and gas -- created by the last throes of a dying star that once was about five times the mass of the Sun.

The so-called Butterfly Nebula's "wings" are in fact what NASA called "roiling cauldrons of gas" heated to over 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit (20,000 degrees Celsius) and speeding across space at over 600,000 miles (965,600 kilometers) per hour.

"This marks a new beginning for Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the US space agency's headquarters in Washington.

"The telescope was given an extreme makeover and now is significantly more powerful than ever, well-equipped to last into the next decade."

Hubble's new portfolio included shots of a massive, three-light-year-long pillar of gas and dust where stars burst to life.

Scorching radiation and streams of charged particles from the stars shaped the pillar inside the Carina Nebula stellar nursery, located some 7,500 light years away from Earth. Each light year is about 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

In an image taken in visible light, the top of the column was immersed in a glow emanating from huge, hot stars above.

The pillar and the green-colored gas around it were almost invisible in a second image taken in infrared light, which penetrates stellar dust, that revealed infant stars nestled inside and shooting jets of material moving at high velocity.

A colorful array of some 100,000 stars adorned a panoramic view of the crowded core of the huge Omega Centauri globular cluster, which counts nearly 10 million stars.

More sensitive to light, the new instruments will "improve Hubble's observing efficiency significantly," NASA said.

The repair job in May marked the end of NASA's human missions to the 19-year-old but beloved Hubble.

The upgrade pushed the telescope to a new scientific summit, a perch from which astronomers can search for the earliest galaxies, unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter and chart the planet-forming processes under way around other stars in the Milky Way galaxy

Source: AFP

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