While President Obama's Blue Ribbon panel characterizes NASA as an agency whose projects are far beyond its means, the revitalized Hubble Telescope shows why the $18 billion space agency is worth it. Orbiting 353 miles above earth, the 19-year-old and once troubled Space Telescope became fully operational again and more powerful in August. The fruits of the its fourth and final servicing mission in May are mind boggling.
Comments on NASA's page showing the 10 pictures released yesterday say it all:"No word can describe the wonder of these images." The images inspire deep awe: "God's Creation...perfect." Actually, I'm sort of glad they are REALLY far away and you will be too when you read about their awesome power and size.
Perhaps NASA timed the release of photos to the panel's report and at the end of the day, the panelists asked for $3 billion more above NASA's FY2010 $18 billion request.
But that's insignificant earthly stuff. Let's get on to five of the images and enjoy the splendor. Captions sit below each image and came, obviously enough, from NASA.
This dying star is called Butterfly whose dimensions defy the imagination. The so-called wings are gases burning at 36,000 degree F. and moving at 600,000 mile per hour. Technically, it's named NGC 6302 and is a planetary nebula. It's a mere 3,800 light years from earth and stretches across for two light years.
These infrared and ultraviolet images of Carina Nebula shows stars being being born and was taken by a new camera installed during the last service mission (as was the Butterfly). It's proportions are stunning. Carina is 7,500 light years from earth and 15 light years from end to end. The stars being born are "nestled" inside the gas plume which is moving at 850,000 miles per hour. It's a good thing this is so far away!
This shot shows 100,000 stars in the Omega Centauri cluster, which overall has 10 million. The white dots are adult stars like our sun. Orange-ish stars are older stars. The blues are older stars that got "a new lease on life" when they merged or collided with another star. The image was `snapped' in both visible and ultraviolet light.
These five galaxies called Stephan's Quintet. But there's only four galaxies in the picture and there should be five, you say? Look closely at the one in the center and you'll see two cores so what looks like a single galaxy is actually two. Now these star galaxies are REALLY, REALLY far away. The whitish one at upper left is 40 million lights years from earth and that's comparatively close. The rest are 290 million light years away!
Blue stars ring the middle of the Markarian 817 galaxy whose "monster black hole is blasting material into space at 9 million miles per hour." Just try going that fast yourself. A Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) measures the outflow of gases and the presence of hydrogen in 1977 was not found in the most recent findings. Markarian does its thing 430 million light years from earth.
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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com