Madrid, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- The Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 30th anniversary on Friday with the publication of a spectacular image of a “cosmic reef”.
The picture shows the giant red nebula NGC 2014 and its smaller blue neighbour NGC 2020, part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way 163,000 light-years away.
It was dubbed the “cosmic reef” because of its resemblance to an underwater world, NASA said in a statement.
This star-forming region is dominated by the brightness of stars at least 10 times more massive than the Sun, which have lifespans of a few million years, compared to the 10 billion years of our star.
The scene was one of the many star nurseries the telescope has observed since it was launched on 24 April 1990 from Cape Canaveral base in the United States.
Since then the telescope has racked up more than 175,000 trips around the Earth, totalling around 4.4 billion miles.
On its circular journey it has made more than 1.4 million observations of nearly 47,000 celestial objects.
Each year, Hubble spends a small portion of its observing time on taking a special anniversary image “showcasing particularly beautiful and meaningful objects”, the European Space Agency said in a statement.
These observations continue to “challenge scientists with surprising new findings and to fascinate the public with ever more evocative images”, it added.
This year’s image “reveals how energetic, massive stars sculpt their homes of gas and dust”, the ESA continued.
Günther Hasinger, ESA director of science, said in a statement: “The Hubble Space Telescope has shaped the imagination of truly a whole generation, inspiring not only scientists, but almost everybody.”
Hubble has revolutionised modern astronomy with its observations that have helped scientists discover more about the formation of planets, stars and galaxies and about black holes.
Named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, the space telescope is similar in size to a bus, although cylindrical, weighs 11 tons, measures 13.2 meters and has a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters. EFE-EPA