Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble!

The Bubble Nebula
Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

This weekend saw two notable anniversaries. The first came on Saturday 23rd April and saw Shakespeare fans commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death, whilst Sunday saw scientists celebrating the 26th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope represents one of the biggest successes in astronomy, but this fact belies the far from easy life it has had. A joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), Hubble was launched with huge fanfare and the expectations upon it were massive. However, it was immediately clear that that the images being received were anything but clear. A measurement mistake with the primary mirrors meant that Hubble was not focusing correctly and was almost immediately mothballed. Thankfully, the decision was taken to send astronauts into space to attempt the repairs. This turned out to be a brilliant decision.

Throughout the first ten years of its life Hubble was regularly visited and upgraded by astronauts, as the success of the mission continued to grow and grow. NASA and ESA should be congratulated, as the Hubble Space Telescope has provided some of the most amazing images and continues to provide scientific learning 26 years after launch.

To mark the occasion NASA have issued a stunning image (opposite) of the Bubble Nebula (also known as NGC 7635). 

Everyone at the NSO would like to wish the Hubble Space Telescope a very happy birthday!

The Bubble Nebula can also be observed using the Liverpool Telescope via the National Schools’ Observatory. The ‘bubble’ is actually a cloud of gas and dust, but measuring a staggering 10 light years across, meaning that even travelling at the speed of light it would take ten years to go from one side to the other. The cloud is also currently expanding at an amazing 100,000km per hour! The Bubble Nebula is part of the Milky Way and is around 7000 light years away from Earth.

It is one of several emission nebulae in the catalogue, with M27, M57 and M97 particularly good to observe at the moment. 

For more information on how to make use of the NSO please click here.