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Just in time for the 26th anniversary of Hubble's launch, the telescope photographed an enormous, balloon-like bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. Astronomers trained the telescope on this colorful feature, called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635.
The star forming this nebula is 45 times more massive than our sun. Gas on the star gets so hot that it escapes away into space as a "stellar wind" moving at over 4 million miles per hour. This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble much like a snowplow piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward.
Dense pillars of cool hydrogen gas laced with dust appear at the upper left of the picture, and more "fingers" can be seen nearly face-on, behind the translucent bubble. The gases heated to varying temperatures emit different colors: oxygen is hot enough to emit blue light in the bubble near the star, while the cooler pillars are yellow from the combined light of hydrogen and nitrogen.
The Bubble Nebula was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel. It lies about 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia. Learn more at HubbleSite's NewsCenter.