The Hubble Space Telescope is a large astronomical observatory that launched on April 24, 1990, and has provided us with a wide array of awe-inspiring images ever since.
It was a difficult job but we’ve picked some of our favorite images from the iconic deep-space observatory and placed them in this gallery for you to peruse at your leisure.
From comets to far-flung galaxies and everything in between. Click through this gallery to see more incredible Hubble images.
In the image above wispy clouds of gas and a strange "superbubble" dominate the view in this Hubble Space Telescope image. The nebula, or gas cloud, known as N44, is located in a nearby galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. In the image, you can see hydrogen gas glowing in the dark, along with dark dust lanes and stars of all ages, in a complex structure roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth.
Related: What Is The Hubble Constant?
You can read about why the Hubble Space Telescope has been such a stellar success with this informative article on The Conversation and explore 30 interesting Hubble Space Telescope facts with this online article from the Kennedy Space Center.
Before Hubble could start capturing incredible pictures of the universe, the telescope's first order of business was to test out its instruments and make sure everything was in working order. On the right is the first image Hubble ever took, which focused on the 8.2-magnitude star HD96755 in the star cluster NGC 3532. On the left is an image of the same patch of the sky taken by a ground-based telescope.
The image, taken using Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera and released May 20, 1990, demonstrate Hubble's improved visibility compared with observatories on Earth, where the atmosphere can obstruct the view. It was also intended to help with focusing the telescope.
"Even accounting for the aberration in Hubble's mirror, the space telescope's image (right) offers more clarity than what was generally possible with ground-based observations," NASA said in a statement.
A flaming blue sword seems to pierce a giant cosmic heart in a gorgeous new photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The "sword" is composed of twin jets of superheated, ionized gas that are rocketing into space from opposite poles of a newborn star called IRAS 05491+0247. The "heart" is the cloud of leftover dust and gas surrounding the protostar, according to Hubble team members.
This dramatic interaction between jets and cloud creates an uncommon celestial sight known as a Herbig-Haro object. The one photographed here by Hubble is named HH111, and it lies about 1,300 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Orion.
Southern Crab Nebula
The Hubble team released this image of the hourglass-shaped Southern Crab Nebula for the space telescope's 29th anniversary, in 2019. Not to be confused with the Crab Nebula found in the constellation Taurus, the Southern Crab Nebula is the beautifully symmetrical structure created by an uneven binary star system. In that system, one star has already exploded and turned into a white dwarf.
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning view of the Prawn Nebula floating through deep space.
The Prawn Nebula, formally known as IC 4628, is an emission nebula located 6,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Scorpius. Nebulas, or clouds of interstellar gas and dust, form following massive stellar explosions; in turn, this interstellar material gives life to new stars.
Stretching over 250 light-years wide, IC 4628 is believed to be a massive stellar nursery, where new stars are forming. Scientists classify it as an emission nebula because its gas has been energized, or ionized, by the radiation of nearby stars. That process produces electrons that re-emit the absorbed energy in the form of infrared light, according to a statement from NASA.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Some of Hubble's most famous images are from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which has peered at the most distant galaxies ever observed. This image zooms in on a patch of the sky that contains about 10,000 galaxies that lie up to 10 billion light-years away from Earth. Astronomers use these deep-space images to look back in time and study the universe's origins and evolution.
This version of the composite, released in 2014, is an improved version of the original one that was released in 2003. It incorporates even more observations with more wavelengths of light. Hubble acquired the data for these images using its Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3.
The Veil Nebula is a large supernova remnant located 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It's also one of the most massive and brilliant X-ray sources in the sky and measures about 110 light-years wide. Astronomers believe the Veil Nebula was created when a star 20 times the mass of the sun exploded around 8,000 years ago, and stellar wind from the explosion gave the cloud its shape. The Hubble team released this image on Sept. 24, 2015.
Hubble spotted the bipolar nebula NGC 6302, known as the Butterfly Nebula or Bug Nebula, fluttering through the Scorpius constellation using its brand-new Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009. NASA astronauts installed the new camera during a servicing mission that year, and this was among the first deep-space images Hubble took with the new instrument.
NGC 6891 glows brightly in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope, as the observatory assists scientists in learning more about how these gas clouds formed and evolved.
Astronomers call NGC 6891 a "planetary nebula," a term arising from an old misidentification with planets back when telescope technology was in its infancy. Today we know that such nebulas form after smaller stars shed their gas, late in their lifetime.