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STAR STRUCK

Photos: The Hubble Space Telescope is 26 years old and still blowing our minds

By Christopher Groskopf

This weekend marks the 26th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s ride into orbit on the space shuttle Discovery. Despite its age and storied history, the Hubble continues to be a crucial tool for astronomers. It also continues to absolutely blow our minds with jaw-dropping pictures of deep space.

To celebrate the anniversary, Hubble scientists published a new picture of NGC 7635, better known as the Bubble Nebula. This is the first-ever Hubble image of the entire nebula and was created by stitching together four separate images.

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635).

The Hubble won’t always be the most advanced telescope in orbit. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will launch in 2018. Another future telescope, scheduled for the mid-2020s, would have the same precision as the Hubble, but 100 times the field of view. Even with those technical advances, it’s a safe bet that scientists will continue making discoveries with the Hubble as long as it continues to beam stunning photos back to Earth.

Here are some of our favorite Hubble images from over the years:

NASA, ESA,S. Beckwith, and the HUDF Team
A section of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The complete image includes 10,000 galaxies.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
NGC 3603, a cluster of young stars.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
The Sombrero Galaxy is 50,000 light-years across.
NASA and ESA
A close-up of the Tarantula Nebula.
NASA, ESA, M. Livio, and the Hubble Heritage Team
The “peaks” of gas and dust clouds in the Carina Nebula.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
The disk galaxy NGC 5866 is seen almost perfectly on-edge.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
Two spiral galaxies passing by each other, but not quite colliding.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team
The remains of a supernova explosion known as Cassiopeia A.
NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team, and other contributors
Arp 148, a galaxy resulting from the violent merger of two galaxies that have collided.