Fly Through a Nebula 163,000 Light Years Away (Celebrating 30 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope)

published on July 9, 2020

Hey smart people Joe here you are flyingthrough glowing clouds of interstellargas some say their colors resemble acoral reef in a vast sea of starsthey're part of a star-forming region ina nearby satellite galaxy to the MilkyWay

163 thousand light-years from Earth andthough it may look like Hollywood CGIthis image is real and it was justcreated to celebrate the 30thanniversary of the hubble spacetelescope during last 30 years Hubble

Has completely changed how we view theuniverse and our place in a cosmos morevast and more astounding than we evercould have imaginedHubble left Earth aboard the spaceshuttle Discovery in 1990 the us space

Program was still feeling the loss ofthe shuttle Challenger and itsseven-person crew just four yearsearlier after 32 months of flights beinggrounded it was time for NASA to trysomething big at once again and this was

Big putting a telescope the size of abus into orbit around our planet atabout eight kilometers per second is noeasy feat and things didn't start offsmoothly when Hubble was deployed themirror which aims light into the

Telescope was warped out of focus byjust one-fiftieth the width of a humanhair the world's most advanced SpaceTelescope had blurry vision but threeyears later astronauts installedcorrective optics equipment to offset

The error and its eyes or brought intofocussince then Hubble has been continuouslyupgraded throughout its time in orbitgiving us an unprecedented view of theuniverse near and far it's shown us

Aurora's dancing on Saturn's poles thebirth of new stars and a cosmichourglass blowing the sands of time atsix hundred and twenty thousand milesper hour and even the heart of the MilkyWay the human eye can see at most around

Six thousand stars in the night skyfrom Earth they appear to twinkle astheir light is distorted and blocked bythe atmosphere but Hubble sitting aboveit has an undistorted view deep intospace and thanks to this clear view it

Was able to put the on spiring scale ofthe universe in perspective like neverbefore this is the Hubble Deep Fieldperhaps Hubble's most history changingimage it was captured by aiming thetelescope here no that's the Big Dipper

Right there Hubble focused on thisminiscule pixel of space for six days toanyone here on earth this looked like anempty void just darkness but throughHubble's eyes it was everything a speckof space no bigger than a grain of sand

Held at arm's length holding thousandsof galaxies each containing hundreds ofbillions of starsHubble's photos are truly works of artbut they don't start off looking likethis they're the results of some times

Tens of thousands of hours of work byhumans and computers to turn this intothis but just because they're processedand edited doesn't mean they aren't realHubble's instruments record visibleultraviolet and near-infrared light

Think of it like how your TV is able tocombine the primary colors of light topaint an entire image showing a wholerainbow of colors an image from Hubbleworks the same way it filters light fromvarious points across the

Electromagnetic spectrum to only observeslices of color which are assembled onearth into multicolored imagesastronomers often focus on very narrowslivers of light which can representindividual chemical elements molecular

Signatures temperatures densities evenhow fast things are moving becausedifferent wavelengths of light can teachus different things about the cosmosthese are the pillars of creation anactive star-forming region in the Eagle

Nebula as seen in visible light and herethey are in near-infrared just past thered end of the spectrum near-infraredlight can penetrate more of the cocoonsof gas and dust that surround formingstars revealing objects that are

Obscured if we only look at the range ofhuman vision this expanded vision letsus see thisa blue haze stellar material beingheated up and blown away by intenseradiation comparing these two different

Views allowed scientists to discoverthat the pillars of creation are alsohome to destruction and by dividing thelight from the Crab Nebula into narrowbands Hubble scientists were able todetect spectral fingerprints of hydrogen

Sulfur oxygen and nitrogen glowingthousands of light years away althoughHubble is able to look at these verynarrow slices of the sky we can alsoassemble remarkably larger views to tella bigger story the way the letters on a

Page combined to make a poem this viewof the Andromeda galaxy is a compositeof 7,000 398 exposures taken over 411individual pointings creating an imagefilled with billions of pixels ofstarlight even though these observations

Look like works of art the night sky isnot just a flat canvas painted withconstellations something is missing fromeven Hubble's most detailed images depthHubble's visualization experts wanted tochange that and shift our perspective to

Experience the universe not as it looksbut in the three-dimensional way itreally is this is Orion's belt and thatis Sirius the brightest star in ournight sky but watch what happens when weview the image this way Sirius isn't

Really the brightest star of them allit's just reasonably bright andreasonably close to us a flat view fromour vantage point doesn't tell the wholestory this is where computer modelinghas really transformed astronomy

Intricate software analyzes an imagelike this one from Hubble and recreatesit using digital stars data about theStars true brightness and size gives usan idea of the Stars relative positionsto each other

Allowing us to map the synthetic starsin three dimensions even their colourcomes into play as the universe expandsspace itself expands too and as lighttravels through this space it getsstretched out by that expansion and its

Color shifted more towards the red endof the spectrum that means farther awayobjects look redder after reconstructinga three-dimensional slice of the cosmoswe can separate stars by color or seewhich ones are the brightest like this

We can even use this software to removestars in the foreground and gain aclearer view of what's obscured behindthem combining all this data stackingall of these slices of light we canbuild the scene adding real

Three-dimensional depth to views ofstellar dust and gas so we can moreaccurately model how it behaves andinteracts highs and lows gradients anddensities we can carve out valleys diveinside of them peer under shock waves to

Reveal nurseries of newborn planetsHubble has photographed thousands ofgalaxies outside our own and using thesetools we've learned that they're notIslands isolated and separate from oneanother rather they interact in billion

Year timescalesHubble's data lets us watch eons ofcosmic tug-of-war unfold in a singleminute of video creating just one frameof this can take three hours ofcomputing time we can even model what

Our own galaxy might look like in threepoint seven five billion years when ournearest neighbor Andromeda gets tooclose this is CGI yes but it's not thework of our imaginations in a way it'seven more than we could imagine thanks

To the work of one special telescope 568kilometres above us Hubble doesn't justlet us see into the future of the cosmosit takes us on a journey through thepast through the history of everythingand these tiny red dots hiding among

More than 10,000 galaxies are perhapsthe most amazing thing on that journeythat Hubble has ever seen galaxies fromthe dawn of the universe the light fromthese galaxies in the deepest reaches ofHubble's view takes more than ten

Billion years to make its journey thisancient light reveals them as they werejust seven hundred million years afterthe Big Bang Hubble is more than atelescope it's a time machine that letsus watch galaxies evolve and

Over our universes history it's a windowinto the history of the universe itselfsaying there are tens of billions ofgalaxies is hard for our brains tounderstand but flying through a portionof them brings that vastness into view

It's emotional and unbelievable it makesus feel tiny alone and at the same timeconnected to everything else on thisinsignificant Rock and everything thatlies beyond Hubble's images and thosewho work with them have changed our

Place in space stay curiousI want the stale billion year oldstarlight of a distant galaxy to be yourrewardI want to uh turley disorient you andlet you navigate back by the Stars I

Want you to lose yourself and find itagain not just here but everywhere ineverything I want you to believe thatthe universe is a vast random uncaringplace in which our species our world hasabsolutely no significance and I want

You to believe that the only response isto make our own beauty and meaning andto share it while we canI want to make you wonder what is outthere what dreams may come in waves ofradiation across the breath of an

Endless expanse what we may know giventime and what splendors might never everreach us I want to make it meansomething to youthat you are in the cosmos that you areof the cosmos that you are born from

Stardust and to start us you will returnthat you are a way for the universe tobe in awe of itself what you just heardwas part of a poem by my friendastrophysicist Katie Mack I've left alink to the full poem down in the

Description check it out it's absolutelybeautiful and if you want to learn moreabout the future of the universe her newbook the end of everythingastrophysically speaking will bedropping in August keep looking up


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