Opalescent stellar nursery imaged by Hubble


By Maggie McKee (Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/AURA) The Hubble Space Telescope has completed its 100,000th orbit of the Earth since its launch 18 years ago, and to celebrate, astronomers used it to image an opalescent region of starbirth in a nearby galaxy. The image reveals the colourful surface of a cloud of gas and dust near a star cluster called NGC 2074 (upper left in image). The cluster lies 170,000 light years away in a neighbouring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. The gas cloud, or nebula, itself is cold and dark – the perfect environment for creating new stars. But intense radiation from young stars nearby is eroding the cloud and causing its ‘walls’ to glow. In this image taken by the telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on Sunday, red shows emission from sulphur atoms, green from glowing hydrogen, and blue from glowing oxygen. The telescope completed the milestone orbit at 1142 GMT on Monday, when it was above the Pacific Ocean. It has been circling the planet about once every 90 minutes since it first went into orbit on 25 April 1990. The venerable observatory has suffered numerous instrument failures in recent years,
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