Happy birthday Hubble!! Twenty-eight years ago, on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was put into orbit by the Discovery Shuttle. Each year to commemorate the event NASA delivers a new view of a specially chosen astronomical object. This year it is the nebula of the lagoon that has the honors.
The Lagoon Nebula is a huge nursery of stars 55 light years wide and 20 light years in height. It is about 4,000 light years from Earth, and appears three times larger in the sky than the full moon. It is even visible to the naked eye in a clear and dark sky.
Because of the its huge size, Hubble is only able to capture a small fraction of the total nebula. This birthday image is only about 4 light years wide, but it shows striking details. This amazing nebula was cataloged for the first time in 1654 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna, who sought to record nebulous objects in the night sky so as not to confuse them with comets. The bright star surrounded by dark clouds in the center of the image is Herschel 36. Its radiation sculpts the surrounding cloud by blowing a portion of the gas, creating dense and less dense regions.
For 28 years, Hubble has delivered many other images of the depths of space like supernovas, cataclysmic explosions marking the death of a star, as well as other celestial bodies.
Recently the telescope spotted the most distant star ever identified. It is a blue supergiant nicknamed Icarus, which is located 9.3 billion light years from Earth. Despite its countless successes, Hubble is starting to get old and its potential has been exploited. His successor, the James Webb Telescope will be 100 times more powerful, it will be launched in 2020.