Happy (Belated) 30th Birthday Hubble! Continuing the celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30th anniversary (April 24th), July will be full of our top 30 Hubble images to explore in WWT, as selected by individuals in the astronomy community, so be sure to check in daily and I will update this post.
First up is my favorite: the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). With millions of distinctly visible stars (including hundreds of stellar clusters), the sheer scale and depth of this picture of Triangulum is staggering. At 32073 x 41147 pixels, this is truly a sight to explore in the WWT engine:
This is an image that I get to experience daily in my planetarium at 20.5 meters in diameter. Upon opening the brand new dome in Feb of 2019, we were searching for a main background image (for entry/exit to the dome) to captivate the eye and show off our new projector technology and the exquisite detail in this mosaic of Triangulum succeeds at both. In the year that has followed, this Triangulum mosaic has become synonymous with “wow” for our guests and staff alike and I remain awestruck every time I see it. Be sure to zoom in and search for star clusters and explore the nebulous regions at the link above. Use the toolbox controls (icon at the upper right) manipulate the cross-fader to compare the image with imagery from PanSTARRS 3pi or select different background imagery.
A. David Weigel
Data Visualization Specialist – AAS WorldWide Telescope
INTUITIVE Planetarium Director – U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Fly through the Carina Nebula and head to the Keyhole Nebula:
The earliest Hubble images were all revolutionary, but the first one that really knocked my socks off was the 2000 release of this Keyhole Nebula image. To see it in full detail in my planetarium, we had to download it, and take it to a photo lab to get it turned into a slide, but it was worth the effort! The swirling filaments of gas are constantly sculpted and changed by particles ejected from nearby stars. Those dark, clumpy regions are called globules, and they often have stars forming at their cores. I love that the big globule in the upper left is called the ‘Defiant Finger.’Press the spacebar to pause allowing you to zoom and/or pan and press it again to restart the 30 second pan.
Director of Theaters & Digital Experience - Adler Planetarium
Compare NGC 602 at visible wavelengths to a composite image of IR/Visible/X-ray:
NGC 602 is by far my favorite Hubble image, a young open cluster located within the N90 nebula complex in the constellation of Hydrus. There is so much going on in this image which makes it of particular interest to me. It has hot young O and B stars just starting out on their evolution, ionization clouds, pre-main sequence stars and stellar nurseries (elephant trunks) where new stellar life is in its embryonic stages. A very dynamic and exciting region of formation it leads my mind to wonder what new life may develop there. Located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, it isn’t visible from my home location in the U.K. so has an added mysticism for me. I don’t know if anyone else sees the image as a small child looking out into the universe, but I see an infant’s face embedded into the nebulosity looking out inquisitively observing its evolution. For this reason, I refer to this image as the Cosmic Child. Use the toolbox controls (icon at the upper right) to crossfade between the Hubble image and the Hubble/Chandra/Spitzer composite image, then try changing the background to Optical Terapixel.
Deep Sky Section - British Astronomical Association
Journey through Westerlund 2!
I love the combination of the blue foreground stars with the red infrared stars of the cluster brought forth from the enshrouding gas. The vibrant colors of nebulae have always been my favorite and this one doesn’t disappoint, having both the thin, wispy parts reflecting the light of the stars and dark globs accenting it. The name too invokes images of wonder and exploration because it makes me think of the word “wanderlust”. Stunning sights like this make me marvel at the awesomeness of the universe and wonder what is hidden out there, just waiting for us to find and admire. Press the spacebar to pause allowing you to zoom and/or pan and press it again to restart the 30 second pan.
INTUITIVE Planetarium Visualization Specialist - U.S. Space & Rocket Center
My favorite Hubble picture is of the Crab Nebula. This image has long been one of my favorites to reference when I think about the beauty of our universe, not only because of the wonderful colors and unique design, but because of its history. A nebula is what remains when a star dies in a supernova explosion. As the star’s life was ending, it left behind a beautiful masterpiece as its legacy. And it is quite the legacy as the star exploded nearly 1000 years ago and Hubble captured the images in the year 2000.
Chemistry PhD Student - University of Georgia
The Pillars of Creation in Visible and Infrared Light
I grew up with the original ‘Pillars of Creation’ image on a poster in my bedroom. I always looked at it as an unusually haunting image, the gas and dust twisted and teased by the shockwaves of ancient supernovae and delicate pull of gravity into what I always found to be an oddly demonic shape, given the image’s name. The 25th anniversary revisit takes that to a new level, showcasing not only that Hubble has always been more than just a visible telescope, being part of our gateway into infrared astronomy which has vastly expanded our understanding of the universe over the last several decades. Allowing us to peel through the obscuring gas and dust, this infrared view shows an even more skeletal side of the nebula, but also reveals even more clearly what it is, a nursery being carved out by new stars, echoing those ancient myths from around our world of the Earth itself being made from the corpse of some primordial chthonic being.
Manager of Planetarium Engineering - California Academy of Sciences
Out of this Whirl!
The Whirlpool Galaxy is my favorite galaxy, not just for its gorgeous symmetrical spiral structure, but also for the scientific story it tells. Wending around those spiral arms are the progressive stages of star formation. From the dense, dark dust clouds where stars condense, through the fiery, pink nebulae where stars burst to life, to the brilliant blue clusters of short-lived massive stars, the vivid sequence of star birth is on detailed display in Hubble’s 100 megapixel image.
Dr. Frank Summers
Astrovizicist - Space Telescope Science Institute
Explore the close galactic pair of NGC 4302 and NGC 4298:
I tried finding a ‘definitive favorite,’ but there are so many good ones! One I really like, is the one of the two galaxies NGC 4302 and NGC 4298. In my experience, many people don’t really have a grasp of what a galaxy looks like, three dimensionally. Lots of people that visit my planetarium have seen birds’ eye-view photos of galaxies, or artists’ impressions of galaxies, but don’t really understand galaxies as 3D objects at all. This picture gives a great opportunity to talk about that. Also it has a certain road-accident-fascination-like quality to it. It just looks like something bad is about to happen to these two galaxies. You feel like you just can’t look away.
Fredrik M. Kirkemo
Science Communicator - Jærmuseet
Discover the Hubble Legacy field:
Hubble took over 7500 exposures of a seemly empty patch of sky and stitched them together to form this mind-boggling image. Every single blob and dot in this image is another GALAXY. How big is this patch of sky that Hubble imaged? This area of sky is the size of your thumbnail at arms length. Just imagine the entire sky being filled with galaxies like so… feel small yet?
Astronomy PhD Candidate - University of Florida
Soar through the Tarantula Nebula:
In addition to being a mesmerizing piece of art, this “Heart of the Tarantula” photograph is visible evidence that all galaxies are not the same as our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This compiled image has every stage of star formation and has stars are more massive than any recorded in the Milky Way. We have this picture hanging in our glow room right outside our planetarium exit and most patrons don’t realize the years of research and depth of information we are able to get from one of our next door neighbors in the universe, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Planetarium Director - Margaret C Woodson Planetarium