It’s 30 years ago to the day that the Hubble telescope was launched – and to celebrate its birthday, the veteran observatory has produced another astonishing image of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.
In this Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because it resembles an undersea world.
Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990, Hubble was carried aloft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the space shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew. Deployed into Earth orbit a day later, the telescope opened a new eye onto the cosmos that has been transformative for our civilization.
Hubble is revolutionizing modern astronomy, not only for scientists, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for Hubble’s top scientific achievements. Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging and accessible for people of all ages. The space telescope’s iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.
Hubble’s longevity can be attributed to five space shuttle servicing missions, from 1993 to 2009, in which astronauts upgraded the telescope with advanced instruments, new electronics and on-orbit repairs. The venerable observatory, with its suite of cameras and other instruments, is expected to stay operational through the 2020s, in synergy with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
On April 24, 2020, the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 30th year in orbit by premiering a never-before-seen view of two beautiful nebulas named NGC 2020 and NGC 2014. Hubble’s senior project scientist, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, takes us on a tour of this stunning new image, describes the telescope’s current health, and summarizes some of Hubble’s contributions to astronomy during its 30-year career.Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center