The prolific Hubble Space Telescope will hit an important milestone this weekend ? the 20th anniversary of its launch. Hubble scientists are celebrating the iconic space telescope's milestone with a stunning new photo of pillar-like mountains of dust in a well-known nebula.
The stunning Hubble photo shows just a small part of the Carina Nebula, one of the largest seen star-birth regions in our galaxy. It captures the top of a 3 light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars.
The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside emit jets of gas that can be seen streaming from the towering peaks.
The scene is reminiscent of Hubble's classic "Pillars of Creation" photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. [More Hubble photos.]
The Hubble Space Telescope launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble's discoveries and evocative images were revolutionary in a number of areas of astronomical research, ranging from planetary science to cosmology.
"Hubble is undoubtedly one of the most recognized and successful scientific projects in history," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Last year's space shuttle servicing mission left the observatory operating at peak capacity, giving it a new beginning for scientific achievements that impact our society."
To date, Hubble has observed over 30,000 celestial targets and amassed more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The most recent astronaut servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than two decades ago when it was first launched.
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