The photo was taken by ESA/NASA’s Hubble space telescope, whose epic imagery of the visible universe amazed humanity for more than two decades. The Veil Nebula is a 110-light-year-wide cloud of dust and gases located 2,100 light-years away in the Swan constellation.
But the nebula’s breath-taking beauty comes from a violent past. Researchers explained that the formation occurred when a dying star, 20 times heavier than our sun, suddenly burst within the Cygnus constellation. Scientists believe that the stellar burst was enough close to our days for our ancestors to witness it as a brighter than usual star.
Astronomers also believe that before the stellar explosion, which is called a supernova, a strong stellar wind formed a large hole into the surrounding gaseous material.
When the star exploded, the shockwaves resulted in the explosion bounced against the hole’s walls and gave the nebula the unusual form. Researchers also argue that the bright filaments we can see in the picture are generated when the blast wave hit the dense walls, while dimmer lit regions were triggered when the shock wave reached void areas.
The beautiful colors of the nebula are a result of contrasting temperatures and densities of the gases and particles present there, European Space Agency (ESA) researchers noted. For instance, blue color is generated by hot gas, while red and green hues are triggered by cooler gases.
But it isn’t the first time Hubble takes a snapshot of the epic Veil Nebula. It did it for the first time in 1997. So, researchers from both space agencies currently study the changes that occurred in the gas cloud over the course of nearly two decades.
The 1997 photo was taken with help from the space telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 optical instrument, while the 2015 imagery was captured by the telescoped Wide Field Camera enhanced optical tool, which NASA and ESA astronauts attached to the telescope six years ago.
The Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. It is the heavy duty telescope of both space agencies and underwent art least five repairs. After its initial launch, astronomers noticed that the images were fuzzy. They soon learned that one of the telescope’s primary mirrors had a defect. A crew was sent to repair the flaw in 1993.
The Hubble Space Telescope launched in April 1990. The observatory’s initial images were blurry, and mission scientists soon discovered why — Hubble’s 7.9-foot-wide (2.4 meters) primary mirror was slightly flawed. More repairs followed between 1997 and 2009, but NASA says that the observatory is now fully upgraded and should last at least five more years.
Image Source: Wikimedia