Tuesday, September 08, 2009

hubble telescope: butterfly nebula

The Hubble Space Telescope, which was equipped with a new imaging camera during a space shuttle servicing mission in May is bringing us lovely new images.

"Let there be no doubt, this is truly Hubble's new beginning," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator, during a news conference Wednesday.

The planetary nebula NGC 6302, also known as the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula. Its "wings" are made of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit and there is a dying star at its center.

"The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour -- fast enough to travel from Earth to the moon in 24 minutes," NASA's Web site says.

The "butterfly" is more than 2 light-years across. NASA took advantage of the special filters on Hubble's camera to isolate the light of different elements, said Bob O'Connell, chair of the science oversight committee for Wide Field Camera 3. The red in the image is nitrogen gas, for example, and the blue is oxygen. Hubble is expected to continue its mission for at least five more years.

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