Hubble Space Telescope Rings In 34th Birthday With A Dazzling Image Of Little Dumbbell Nebula

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Astronomers celebrated Hubble Space Telescope’s 34th anniversary of its launch this week by capturing an incredible image of the Little Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 76. The distant nebula is located 3,400 light-years away in the northern circumpolar constellation Perseus.

NASA’s Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990. The space agency touts its design, technology, and serviceability that made it one of its most transformative observatories. The fact it is still collecting data and images nearly 35 years later seems to back that claim. Since its launch, Hubble has made over 1.6 million observations of over 53,000 astronomical objects.

The celebratory image of Messier 76, or M76, highlights what NASA refers to as “blistering” ultraviolet-radiation from the extremely hot star, causing its gases to emit a glow. The planetary nebula is the expanding shell of glowing gases that were ejected from a dying red giant star. It is composed of a ring and two lobes on either opening of the ring, giving it the appearance of a dumbbell.

Adding to the history of Hubble is the fact 44,000 science papers have been published from the space telescope’s observations. There are also 184 terabytes of processed data that is science-ready for astronomers to use around the world stored at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA stated that the demand for using Hubble is so high that it is currently oversubscribed by a factor of six-to-one.

Hubble has exceeded expectations time and time again by being able to make discoveries that were not expected before launch. Some of those discoveries include supermassive black holes, the atmosphere of exoplanets, gravitational lensing by dark matter, dark energy, and the abundance of planet formations among stars.

With over three decades under its belt already, Hubble has no signs of slowing down. Its discoveries have been vital in making ground-breaking discoveries that have shaped, and reshaped, the fundamental understanding of the universe. With any luck, Hubble will still make new discoveries for another three decades.