The shuttle astronauts upgraded the Hubble space telescope recently, and their work has really paid some immediate dividends. NASA has released a series of very cool photos from the Hubble telescope, which can be found on NASA’s website. The new imaging camera on the Hubble telescope is more sensitive to visible light and also allows the telescope to observe and photograph objects in ultraviolet and near-infrared light.
The photos include the barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217, which lies more than 6 million light years away, and a particularly evocative picture of the death of a star in planetary nebula NGC 6302, at right. What appears to be the shimmering wings of a stellar butterfly is actually hot gases, blown out of a dying star that was five times the size of the sun and then subjected to ultraviolet radiation. Carl Sagan probably would have called it starstuff. In any case, it is amazing that Hubble can turn out this kind of stunning photographic record of stars, galaxies, and other faraway space phenomena.
The Sun’s slide show presentation of these and other new photos from Hubble –including the way-cool cat’s eye nebula — is highly recommended.