Despite being 28 years old and having a gyroscope failure, Hubble still delivered these 10 amazing snapshots in 2018.
Year after year since its 1990 launch, Hubble keeps revolutionizing our view of the Universe.
Astronaut Story Musgrave on an EVA to the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope suffered a setback earlier this year with the latest gyroscope failure, but scientists were able to get it back on track, where it’s now observing the Universe to incredibly high precision once again. (NASA / STS-61)
No other observatory continues to teach us so much.
The full UV-visible-IR composite of the XDF; the greatest image ever released of the distant Universe. In a region just 1/32,000,000th of the sky, we’ve found 5,500 identifiable galaxies, all owing to the Hubble Space Telescope. Hundreds of the most distant ones seen here are already unreachable, even at the speed of light, due to the relentless expansion of space. This image was perhaps the best one released in 2013, but Hubble has still more to reveal. (NASA, ESA, H. TEPLITZ AND M. RAFELSKI (IPAC/CALTECH), A. KOEKEMOER (STSCI), R. WINDHORST (ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY), AND Z. LEVAY (STSCI))
28 years on, it’s still yielding uniquely spectacular scientific sights.
This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1277. The galaxy is unique in that it is considered a relic of what galaxies were like in the early universe. The galaxy is composed exclusively of aging stars that were born 10 billion years ago. But unlike other galaxies in the local universe, it has not undergone any further star formation. These ‘red and dead’ galaxies are found most often stripped of gas as they speed through dense galaxy clusters, like NGC 1277 here. It also contains a supermassive black hole thousands of times the mass of the one at the center of our Milky Way. There are still mysteries to be solved about this galaxy, as well as the Perseus Cluster it inhabits. (NASA, ESA, M. BEASLEY (INSTITUTO DE ASTROFÍSICA DE CANARIAS), AND P. KEHUSMAA)
10.) NGC 1277: this spiral galaxy hasn’t formed stars in 11 billion years, having lost its gas by speeding through its cluster.
A single monstrous star, Herschel 36, shines as bright as 200,000 Suns combined at the heart of the Lagoon Nebula. While visible light (L) reveals the presence of gas and dust at different temperatures and composed of different elements, the infrared view at right showcases the incredible abundance of stars that are hidden behind the nebulosity in the visible part of the spectrum. These stars inside the nebula are not fully resolvable by Hubble at its accessible wavelengths, but the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will successfully see through all of the dust. (NASA, ESA, AND STSCI)
9.) The Lagoon Nebula: in visible and infrared light, gaseous collapse races against the evaporative forces of newborn stars.
This year, we learned that a combination of factors such as dynamical friction, uneven heating, and gravitational interactions with moons are causing Saturn’s rings to decay and evaporate. The rings formed a scant 200 million years ago and will be gone in another 100 million years. Today, however, Hubble can view the rings and the gaps and divisions within it optimally, every year, at opposition, which occurred in June in 2018, when this image was taken. (NASA, ESA, A. SIMON (GSFC) AND THE OPAL TEAM, AND J. DEPASQUALE (STSCI))
8.) Saturn at opposition: despite its evaporating rings, Saturn’s face-on views still dazzle.
In 2018, when Mars was at its closest and brightest with respect to Earth, a dust storm blanketing the planet rendered most of the surface features, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, virtually invisible. Rivaling the great 2001 dust storm, this event likely permanently killed the Opportunity rover, and marks one of the great truths about our astronomical ventures: even when it comes to other planets, we will forever be at the mercy of natural weather events.(NASA, ESA, AND STSCI)
7.) A Martian dust storm: raging for months and ending Opportunity’s life, this dust storm may be the largest in recorded Martian history.
Two massive galaxy clusters — Abell S1063 (left) and MACS J0416.1–2403 (right) — display a soft blue haze, called intracluster light, embedded among innumerable galaxies. The intracluster light is produced by orphan stars that no longer belong to any single galaxy, having been thrown loose during a violent galaxy interaction, and now drift freely throughout the cluster of galaxies. This intracluster light closely matches with a map of mass distribution in the cluster’s overall gravitational field. This makes the blue ‘ghost light’ a good indicator of how invisible dark matter is distributed in the cluster.(NASA, ESA, AND M. MONTES (UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES))
6.) Diffuse intracluster starlight: the blue haze captured in these galaxy clusters maps out their overall interior mass.
On the left, the nearby galaxy Messier 100 is viewed in the early 1990s with Hubble’s original Wide Field and Planetary Camera 1, which yields a very impressive image after the problems with the primary mirror were first solved. On the right, the Wide Field Camera 3, the latest main camera to be installed on Hubble, showcases just how much improvements in instrumentation yield improvements in imagery and resolution. (NASA, ESA, AND JUDY SCHMIDT)
5.) Messier 100: images with Hubble’s original and modern cameras show the power of upgrades.
Hubble has photographed the Ghost Nebula, which has eerie, semi-transparent veils of gas and dust which appear to flow from one direction to another. The creepy-looking nebula is located 550 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. The dust is illuminated by a very bright star, Gamma Cassiopeiae, that is above and to the right of the image shown here. (NASA, ESA, AND STSCI; ACKNOWLEDGMENT: H. ARAB (UNIVERSITY OF STRASBOURG))
4.) Ghost Nebula: perhaps
the eeriest place of all, Hubble reveals dust and reflected light. These six images represent a large variety of star-forming regions that are present in nearby galaxies. The galaxies are part of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey (LEGUS), the sharpest, most comprehensive ultraviolet-light survey of star-forming galaxies in the nearby universe, designed to teach us how young stars radiate in modern times. (NASA, ESA, AND THE LEGUS TEAM)
3.) LEGUS galaxies: nearby star-forming galaxies reveal the Universe’s ultraviolet light.
The galaxy cluster Abell 370, shown here, was one of the six massive galaxy clusters imaged in the Hubble Frontier Fields program. Since other great observatories were also used to image this region of the sky, thousands of ultra-distant galaxies were revealed. By observing them again with a new scientific goal, Hubble’s BUFFALO (Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations) program will obtain distances to these galaxies, enabling us to better understand how galaxies formed, evolved, and grew up in our Universe. (NASA, ESA, A. KOEKEMOER (STSCI), M. JAUZAC (DURHAM UNIVERSITY), C. STEINHARDT (NIELS BOHR INSTITUTE), AND THE BUFFALO TEAM)
2.) Abell 370: this massive, distant cluster gravitationally lenses the background light, with Hubble revealing the distances to thousands of galaxies.
On October 27, 2018, after three weeks in safe mode, Hubble targeted a field of star-forming galaxies located 11 billion light-years away. Observations like this will teach us how the Universe formed stars throughout its history and gave rise to our transparent-to-visible-light cosmos. (NASA, ESA, AND A. SHAPLEY (UCLA))
1.) Welcome back: after its gyroscope failure, this was Hubble’s first image taken upon its return.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the scientific story of an astronomical wonder in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more. Ethan Siegel is the author of
Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.