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16 breathtaking Hubble images that changed the way we view the Universe

We have much to thank Hubble for at its 25th birthday.

TODAY MARKS THE 25th anniversary of when the world-famous Hubble Space Telescope was first launched into space.

This revolutionary telescope, which uses a series of high-resolution cameras to observe the visible universe, has sparked the awe of the public with its stunning images and captured the hearts of the scientific community with its wealth of data.

From the mysterious nature of dark matter to the birth of stars and the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, Hubble has taught us about the many dazzling wonders of our universe during its 25 years in space.

Although exoplanets are too distant and small to photograph, Hubble measured the first chemical composition of an exoplanet in 2001. Below is the artistic image that NASA created to represent these findings.

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Before Hubble and Very Large Array (VLA) combined forces to create this image, astronomers thought that only elliptical galaxies could produce powerful jets of subatomic particles, like the jet indicated above in false-color red.

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Thanks to Hubble, we now know that at the center of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole and that the larger the size of a galaxy’s central bulge, the more massive its black hole.

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Believe it or not, this is a real Hubble image, and that bizarre blue ring toward the right is an optical illusion produced when gravity bends light in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Astronomers have used this technique to discover some of the smallest, faintest, most distant galaxies in our universe. 

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This is a Hubble image of the Crab Nebula, a beautiful look at what remains after a star explodes and goes supernova.

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In 2006, Hubble set its sites on the mesmerising Orion Nebula and discovered 16 planets nuzzled within its beautiful confines. Before the Kepler Spacecraft launched in 2009 and began searching the galaxy for exoplanets, the number of known planets outside of our solar system was limited. This Hubble discovery was a momentous find that strongly hinted at the prevalence of planets throughout our universe.

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In 2012, scientists announced that they had discovered a fifth moon around Pluto. They used Hubble to find the latest, and tiniest member of Pluto’s moon menagerie that is only between 10 and 25 kmacross. In the Hubble image below, you can see three of Pluto’s moons: Cheron, Nix, and Hydra.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a massive, centuries-old storm adorning the face of the planet is shrinking. Earlier this year, recent Hubble images of the Great Red Spot were released that indicated it is less than half the size it was in the 19th century.

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These are two Hubble images of the same object. The left image was taken in May 2002 while the right image was taken over six months later.
It was first spotted when astronomers observed a bright light pulse — 600,000 times brighter than our sun — coming from a star about 20,000 light years from Earth. The star faded, but the light it emitted continued to travel outward, illuminating the star’s surrounding nebula. The light hits the gas of the nebula and then bounces off in different directions, and some of that reflected light heads toward Earth. This phenomenon is called a light echo and is what made this famous Hubble image to the right possible.

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The star at the center of this Hubble image of the Cat’s Eye Nebula is called a red giant star, which is what our sun will eventually become after it runs out of hydrogen to burn.

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This Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula is a classic, but do you know where to look? Check out the top of the tallest pillar and you’ll see little fingers sticking out of the column. These finger-looking protrusions are called evaporating gaseous globules, and this Hubble image, taken in 1995, provided the first photographic evidence for their existence. Astronomers suspect this is where stars are born.

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This is the famous Hubble Ultra-deep Field, released in June of 2014. It is one of the most detailed deep-space images ever taken, showing 10,000 galaxies.

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This spectacular snapshot in time shows two galaxies in the process of merging together. Studying how galaxies form, merge, and evolve is imperative to understanding how our home galaxy, the Milky Way, formed and will continue to change with time.

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This is a close-up image of the Carina Nebula, and that free-floating EGG is known as the “caterpillar.” You can see that the edges of the caterpillar are illuminated, indicating that it’s cooking up some stars inside.

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What you’re seeing at the center of this Hubble image is a very important type of luminous star called a Cepheid variable. Before Hubble, astronomers had only a vague idea of the age of the universe. But by using the patterns by which these stars brighten and dim over short periods of time, astronomers obtained extremely accurate distances to these objects, which helped them pin down the 14-billion-year age of the universe.

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We can’t see dark matter, but we know it’s there thanks to Hubble. The is a real Hubble image of a galaxy cluster with false coloring superimposed on top. The false blue indicates where most of the cluster’s mass is located but also where few galaxies lie. This suggests that there is a large clump of dark matter at the center of the cluster.

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Read: These stunning Hubble images show us the secrets of the universe >

PIC: The most jewel-like image of the universe we’ve ever seen >

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