In honour of the recent transit of Venus, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s gallery to showcasing some of the amazing images brought to us courtesy of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Pillars of Creation
Like eerie celestial stalagmites emerging out of impenetrable molecular clouds, these pillars of dense gas, photographed at the heart of the Eagle Nebula, can be light-years in length and are in some sections wider than our solar system. The ‘finger-like’ protrusions at the tops of the structures are known as evaporating gaseous globules (EEGs), and act as incubators for newborn stars. It is for this reason that the pillars are sometimes referred to as stellar nurseries.
This haunting image depicts what is known as the Hourglass Nebula and is situated some 8000 light-years away from Earth. At its centre lies MyCn 18, a white-dwarf star that is slightly off-centre; suggesting that it might be part of a binary system, with a companion star lurking unseen.
One of the most recognizable nebulae, Orion’s Horsehead Nebula is also one of the most spectacular. Known as a ‘dark nebula’ due to its intense density, a silhouette resembling a horse’s head is able to be seen arising out of a swirling blackened gas cloud because of the bright nebula IC 434 illuminating it from behind.
Seeing is Believing
Shaped like a torus (or doughnut), this planetary nebula has been nicknamed the ‘Retina.’ This is due to the complicated tendrils of dust and material, seen from our vantage point, being compared to the complexity of an eye’s retina. Personally, I prefer the uniqueness of its original name: IC 4404. One of the closest nebulae to our own planet – presuming you’re reading this from Earth – the whole spectacle is caused by a star in its death throes.
The Sixth Image
Politically incorrect as it may be, the Eskimo Nebula was first discovered by the famous astronomer William Herschel in 1787, and so named because it resembles – at least from earth-based telescopes – a face encircled by a fur parka. Tsk tsk.
Red Spider Nebula
Centred on a dying star – one of the hottest white-dwarfs ever witnessed – the Red Spider Nebula expels scorching stellar winds at 300 kilometres per second, generating waves 100 billion kilometres high. These supersonic shock waves, caused by the heating of compressed gas and expansion of the nebula, collide with atoms and cause them to radiate light. The Red Spider Nebula resides in the constellation of Sagittarius, about 3-4000 light-years away.
Ultra Deep Field
Arguably the most amazing photograph ever (at least from a philosophical viewpoint), the Ultra Deep Field shows the earliest parts of our universe, just millions of years after the Big Bang. Each one of these star-like objects is an entire galaxy.