Hubble telescope celebrates 21st birthday in style

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

This week, the Hubble Space Telescope turned 21! Shots? Well, not for this special birthday.

Instead, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore pointed the telescope at a particularly beautiful pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

Let’s just say, this telescope knows how to party, with a newly released image showing a large, beautiful spiral in the dark majesty of space.

"[The] disk is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813," NASA explained.

"A swath of blue jewel-like points across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light."

Hubble was originally launched on April 24, 1990 aboard the Discovery’s STS-31 mission. The telescope is responsible for compiling nearly all the current astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology.

"Hubble is America's gift to the world," Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said. "Its jaw-dropping images have rewritten the textbooks and inspired generations of schoolchildren to study math and science. It has been documenting the history of our universe for 21 years. Thanks to the daring of our brave astronauts, a successful servicing mission in 2009 gave Hubble new life. I look forward to Hubble's amazing images and inspiring discoveries for years to come."

NASA administrator Charles Bolden expressed similar sentiments.

"For 21 years, Hubble has profoundly changed our view of the universe, allowing us to see deep into the past while opening our eyes to the majesty and wonders around us. I was privileged to pilot space shuttle Discovery as it deployed Hubble. After all this time, new Hubble images still inspire awe and are a testament to the extraordinary work of the many people behind the world's most famous observatory."

The galaxy photo was taken on December 17, 2010 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The picture is a composite of data taken with three separate filters to allow a wide range of wavelengths from ultraviolet, to blue, and red portions of the spectrum. 

(Via NASA)