NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is revolutionising astronomy with images of Creation.

Tim Furniss/LONDON

NASA's HUBBLE SPACE Telescope (HST) is to receive its next space servicing and new instruments during the Space Shuttle STS82/Discovery mission in February 1997. Further missions will extend the life and capability of the HST well into the next century. The HST's optical capability - enabling it to penetrate 50 times deeper into the visible universe than land-based telescopes - combined with new computer-imaging technology, have resulted in some extraordinary new images (Flight International, 19-25 April, 1995), demonstrating the HST's capability and versatility.


The Hubble records the final death throes of a star in the NGC 7027 planetary nebula, 3,000 light years away in the constellation of Cygnus. The star expanded to 50 times its original size (becoming a red giant), lost its outer layers and cooled to become a white-dwarf star. The image shows concentric shells surrounding the nebula, revealing that initial ejections occurred episodically - an extensive network of red dust clouds (the aftermath of a later, vigorous ejection) and the white dwarf at the centre.


This false-colour image of the Egg Nebula, 3,000 light years away, reveals a pair of mysterious "searchlight" beams emerging from a hidden, slowly dying, star, criss-crossed by numerous bright arcs. The central star is a red giant in the initial process of transforming itself into a planetary nebula. The beams were either formed by starlight escaping from ring-shaped holes in the cocoon surrounding the star, while the spoke-like features are shadows cast by blobs of material within the rings, or they are reflections of jet-like streams of matter being ejected from the centre, but confined to the walls of a conical region around the symmetry axis.

Source: Flight International