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Watch: Hubble Sees A Star ‘Inflating’ A Giant Bubble; NASA Releases Image In Celebration of Space Telescope's 26th Birthday

First Posted: Apr 22, 2016 05:58 AM EDT
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Astronomers have highlighted a Hubble image of a gigantic bubble being blown into space by a massive, super hot star to celebrate the 26th birthday of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, according to reports. The Hubble image is that of the Bubble Nebula which is also called NGC 7635.

The Hubble was launched into the Earth's orbit on April 24, 1990, by the STS-31 space shuttle crew. "As Hubble makes its 26th revolution around our home star, the sun, we celebrate the event with a spectacular image of a dynamic and exciting interaction of a young star with its environment," said John Grunsfeld, Hubble astronaut from NASA. "The view of the Bubble Nebula, crafted from WFC-3 images, reminds us that Hubble gives us a front row seat to the awe-inspiring universe we live in."

The simmering star that formed the Bubble Nebula is 45 times bigger than the sun and is a prototypical Wolf-Rayet star called BD +60º2522. The hot gas of the star can have such an exceedingly high temperature that when it blows away into space, it becomes a stellar wind with a speed of four million miles per hour. The velocity has a piling up effect on the cold interstellar gas in front of it, similar to the effect a snowplow has on the snow ahead of it, leading to the formation of the bubble's outer edge.  

The colorful effect of the bubble is caused by the varying temperatures of the heated gases that lead to the emission of different hues. The blue light in the bubble is due to hot oxygen; the green is caused by hydrogen; and the red can be attributed to nitrogen. The yellow shade of the pillars is due to the combined light of nitrogen and hydrogen. The strong ultraviolet radiation from the shining star inside the bubble further illuminates the Bubble Nebula pillars.

Located 7,100 light-years away from our planet, the Bubble Nebula in the Cassiopeia constellation is approximately one and a half times the distance between the sun and the Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to the solar system. Discovered in 1787 by distinguished British astronomer William Herschel, the Bubble Nebula is one of the few astronomical objects observed by Hubble with its different instruments. The very clear image of the nebula was captured by Hubble's Wide Field Camera-3 in February 2016.

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