Kavya NarayananJul 09, 2019 10:53:07 IST
Twenty-nine years in action and Hubble refuses to quit. The NASA-ESA run space telescope has helped chronicle one of the earliest known spiral galaxy, the NGC 972.
First discovered in 1784, by German-British astronomer William Herschel, the NGC 972 galaxy is further away from our solar system than Andromeda, which is roughly 70 million light-years away. That said, the latest image captured by Hubble could leave anyone thinking it was a neighbouring galaxy to the Milky Way.
In the final image, Hubble has picked up on one of the key elements that dominate star formation — hydrogen (shown in pink and orange) and cosmic dust (in darker patches).
Astronomers look for these telltale signatures of star formations irrespective of which galaxy in the cosmos is being studied. After all, star formation — the rate of it, the regions in the galaxy it is carried out, and the history of the process — hold critical clues to learning how these colossal cosmic collections of dust and gas evolve over time.
Young stars contribute to (and, in turn, are influenced by) more forces and factors that shape and mould galaxies in the universe — be it gravity, radiation, matter or dark matter, according to a statement from NASA.
The image shows bright, colourful pockets of star formation blooming like roses in the spiral galaxy.
In April 2019, Hubble scientists commemorated the gloriously successful telescope turning 29 with an annual release of a heavenly, haunting photograph it captured the same year. This year's subject was none other than the festive and very colourful-looking Southern Crab Nebula, with its tentacle-like extensions and peculiar hourglass shape.
The nebula is among the many objects in the known universe that Hubble has helped demystify over the course of its productive life. And the image went to show that Hubble's still got game.
The past year hasn't been an easy one for the ageing telescope. It suffered from a broken gyroscope, a crucial pointing instrument that it uses to pinpoint star systems in the sky, but also to keep itself stable. The telescope was put in "safe mode" for two weeks, during which time, Hubble engineers tried to repair it using a strategy we know only too well: switch it off, wiggle some things around, and turn it back on again, Gizmodo reported.
It worked. Now, several months after the mini-crisis that threatened the remaining agility Hubble is still clinging on to, Hubble is back to shooting images as pretty, as informative as ever.
Can't wait to see what's next.
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