The Southern Crab Nebula — Hubble’s 29th anniversary image. A binary star system shines at its center. One of the stars routinely erupts and flings off material off that forms the nebula. NASA, ESA, and STScI
Astronomers took this stunning photo of the hourglass-shaped Southern Crab Nebula to mark the Hubble Space Telescope’s 29th birthday. On April 24, 1990, the Hubble was launched about the space shuttle Discovery. Since then it’s contributed both to our understanding of the universe and provided photos depicting scenes of great beauty.
Each year the telescope dedicates a small portion of its precious observing time to take a special anniversary image. This year it’s the Southern Crab located 7,000 light years away in the constellation Centaurus. This beautiful if slightly creepy nebula displays nested hourglass figures created by the interaction of a red giant star and a close white dwarf companion at its center.
This diagram traces the hourglass structure formed by a pair of huge gas bubbles blown out by a double star in the center of the nebula. The gases are too thin for a photo to show the full shape of the hourglass. Instead, the bubbles appear brightest at the edges, giving ...