On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was lifted into low Earth orbit and promptly turned its attention to the depths of space. Today, over 10,000 publications and almost 22 years later, Hubble continues to change the way we see and understand our Universe with images that are truly awesome in every sense of the word.
Case in point: the photo featured up top. The panoramic view of 30 Doradus — the brightest and most prolific star-forming region in our galactic neighborhood — is one of several breathtaking hi-res images released today in celebration of Hubble's 22nd anniversary.
According to the ESA, the photograph "comprises one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos," combining observations made by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera with those of the ESO's MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope, which visualizes clouds of interstellar hydrogen and oxygen. Those observations produce the image seen below. The photo up top takes that image and adds data from the Chandra observatory, which reveals x-ray (blue), infrared (red), and optical (green) wavelengths. According to the ESA:
The image [click here for hi-res] reveals the stages of star birth, from embryonic stars a few thousand years old still wrapped in dark cocoons of dust and gas to behemoths that die young in supernova explosions. 30 Doradus is a star-forming factory, churning out stars at a furious pace over millions of years. The Hubble image shows star clusters of various ages, from about 2 million to about 25 million years old.
Other photographs released today include gorgeous close-up images of specific features within 30 Doradus and an annotated map of the Nebula that highlights notable stars, galaxies and cosmic clouds that can be seen in the photograph.
For more info visit the ESA's Hubble site, where you'll find some very, very hi-res versions of these photographs that are definitely worth checking out. [30 Doradus | Close-up images | Annotated Map]