In celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the telescope, the Hubble science team released a mosaic image of stars forming in the Tarantula nebula.
The nearby Helix nebula just received the piercing infrared gaze of a giant telescope in Chile, and the resulting image reveals cold gas normally hidden among warmer star-lit material.
Helix’s central star once resembled the Sun, but its outer layers of gas and dust sloughed off. The resulting planetary nebula, located some 700 light-years from Earth, is what telescopes now see.
Because starlight scatters off gas and dust, however, the nebula’s center emits a blueish glare in visible light.
To see inside, astronomers aimed the VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile at the Helix. The telescope’s sensors picked up on infrared light, a wavelength invisible to the naked eye.
The above image released today shows the central region of gas and dust extends at least 4 light years, not 2 light years as was previously thought. It also reveals distant stars and galaxies hiding behind the nebula.