Dark Nebula’s Stellar Cauldron Revealed in Stunning Hubble 33rd Anniversary Observation

Hubble’s 33rd anniversary image unveils the mesmerizing chaos of star birth in Dark Nebula NGC 1333, offering a glimpse into the beginnings of our own solar system. Credit: NASA, ESA and STScI; Image processing: Varun Bajaj (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Jennifer Mack (STScI)

Dark Nebula is a cauldron of star birth

You should know where you came from, but understanding the birth of our Sun and family of planets is largely sketchy because it happened 4.6 billion years ago. Trying to imagine far back in time, what were the initial conditions for the genesis of our solar system? Early astronomers thought the Sun formed in isolation, condensing from a wandering cloud of interstellar gas. This new image of nebula NGC 1333 offers a glimpse into the chaotic and messy process of star formation. For starters, it shows that stars are not born in isolation but in batches. They are constructed from cold interstellar hydrogen mixed with soot-like dust. Veils of dust block much of the

The Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as the Hubble or HST) is one of NASA’s major observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4 meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>Hubble Space Telescope’s view into the stellar cauldron. But young bright stars do poke out, like seeing sunlight pierce through clouds on a largely overcast day. Peering deep down inside, Hubble catches a glimpse of a fiery mosh pit of stars putting on their own fireworks show by blasting out jets of hot gas that look like July 4th Roman candles.

This photo was taken in celebration of the 33rd anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope on April 24, 1990.

Hubble NGC 1333 (Compass Image)

This is a compass graphic for the star-forming region NGC 1333. The left half is a color image of NGC 1333 labeled “NGC 1333, HST WFC3/UVIS”. Four filter labels are in blue (F475W), green (F606W), and red (F657N H-alpha plus NII, and F814W). At bottom a scale bar is labeled 0.2 light-years and 43 arcseconds. The right half shows four black-and-white panels in a two-by-two layout. Each panel is a view of NGC 1333 in an individual filter. At top left is F475W; at top right is F606W; at bottom left is F657N; at bottom right is F814W. Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI; Image Processing: Varun Bajaj (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Jennifer Mack (STScI)

To capture this image, Hubble peered through a veil of dust on the edge of a giant cloud of cold molecular hydrogen – the raw material for fabricating new stars and planets under the relentless pull of gravity. The image underscores the fact that star formation is a messy process in our rambunctious universe.

Ferocious stellar winds, likely from the bright blue star at the top of the image, are blowing through a curtain of dust. The fine dust scatters the starlight at blue wavelengths.

This is a video tour of the NGC 1333 nebula which sits on the edge of a gigantic dark cloud of cold molecular hydrogen laced with soot-like dust. This raw material fuels a storm of star birth that unfolds inside the dusty cocoon. Parts of it broke through the veil of dust so that the Hubble Space Telescope could see infant stars that create fireworks. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI

Lower down, another bright, super-hot star shines through wisps of obscuring dust, resembling the Sun shining through scattered clouds. A diagonal chain of fainter flanking stars appears reddish because dust filters starlight, allowing more red light to pass through.

The bottom of the image features a keyhole peek deep into the dark nebula. Hubble captures the reddish glow of ionized hydrogen. It looks like a final fireworks display, with several overlapping events. This is caused by pencil-thin jets shooting out of newly formed stars outside the frame of view. These stars are surrounded by circumstellar disks, which could eventually produce planetary systems, and powerful magnetic fields that direct two parallel beams of hot gas deep into space, like a twin lightsaber from sci-fi movies. They carve patterns on the hydrogen cocoon, like traces of laser light. Jets are a star’s birth announcement.

This is a zoom video of the northern constellation of Perseus, traversing 960 light years of space. We come across nebula NGC 1333 which sits on the edge of a gigantic dark cloud of cold molecular hydrogen interwoven with soot-like dust. This raw material fuels a star birth storm that unfolds inside a dusty cocoon. Parts of it broke through the veil of dust so the Hubble Space Telescope could see infant stars creating fireworks. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Alyssa Pagan (STScI), Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Acknowledgements: KPNO, DSS

This view offers an example of when our Sun and planets formed inside such a dusty molecular cloud, 4.6 billion years ago. Our Sun did not form in isolation, but rather was embedded in a frenzied stellar birth mosh pit, perhaps even more energetic and massive than NGC 1333.

Hubble was launched into orbit around Earth on April 25, 1990 by NASA astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery. To date, the legendary telescope has made approximately 1.6 million observations of nearly 52,000 celestial targets. This treasure trove of knowledge about the universe is stored for public access in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international cooperation project between NASA and ESA. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland operates the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland conducts Hubble and Webb science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

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