Hubble Marks 31st Birthday With Beautiful Portrait Of Star Outburst

The Incredible AG Carinae as seen by Hubble. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, and for more than three decades it has provided humanity with breathtaking views of the cosmos. Not to be outdone on its 31st birthday, NASA has released a spectacular new image of a star ejecting a bubble of glowing gases.

The astronomers at the Space Telescope Institute aimed the powerful observatory at AG Carinae, one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way. The star is a luminous blue variable and is very unstable. It experiences wild pulsations, occasional large outbursts, and the occasional massive eruption. This activity has created a large nebula of ejected material extending to about 5 light-years across.

These luminous blue variables are massive stars that live fast and die young, very different from most stars in our galaxy. AG Carinae is up to 70 times the mass of our Sun and about 1 million times more luminous.


"I like studying these kinds of stars because I am fascinated by their instability. They are doing something weird," said Kerstin Weis, a luminous blue variable expert at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, in a statement.

Hubble has conducted 1.5 million observations of about 48,000 celestial objects. The over 169 terabytes of data collected by the observatory have led to the publication of 18,000 scientific papers, 900 in the last year alone.


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