Astronomers love to point their telescopes at the Ring Nebula. Located 2,000 light years away in the constellation Lyra, this ring of glowing gas has a distinctive elliptical shape when seen from Earth. But new images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that the nebula actually looks a lot more like a football or a misshapen doughnut.
Since the day the Hubble Space Telescope blinked open and saw a blurry heavens, the world of telescope optics has revolved around double-checking every possible detail. To see clearly, a telescope's mirrors must be flawless, bending and reflecting photons with absolutely perfect accuracy. While working on ways to fix Hubble's poor vision, Dan Neal and his colleagues realized another optical system could benefit from perfectly designed corrective lenses: Our eyes.
Back in 2011, the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at Pluto to help astronomers prepare for an upcoming spacecraft visit, and it spotted a tiny object nearby the non-planet. It was a moon, and turned out to be one of two tiny companions previously unknown to science. They were unceremoniously named P4 and P5, and nobody ever gave them better names. Now's your chance!
Take a deep breath, stargazers: this is the farthest we've seen into the heart of the universe. The eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, as the photo's called, shows about 5,500 galaxies, although some are as much are only one ten-billionth of the brightness needed to be seen by human eyes.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have stumbled on a rare and surprising find: A very distant spiral galaxy, swirling billions of light years away, which formed at a time when such spiral galaxies were thought to be nonexistent. Researchers say it's an astounding discovery - partly because it raises some questions about prevailing theories of galaxy formation.