In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th anniversary on Friday, NASA representatives on Thursday unveiled an official celebratory image. You can read more about the Hubble's brilliant past and murky future here. But let's focus on the science behind the photo above, which is just one of so many beautiful shots the Hubble has given us throughout the past quarter of a century.
The images reveals a truth that the Hubble has helped us see for years: Our universe is alive with activity. Unlike the human eye, the Hubble can bring out a full spectrum of light emitted by new stars, giving us a stunning picture of the stellar birthing grounds and the gas and dust surrounding them. NASA has also released a 3-D fly-through of the image, thanks to the Hubble's incredible resolution coupled with NASA scientists' knowledge:
The image captures a section of Gum 29, a region of vigorous star birth around 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. The glittering cluster you see is called Westerlund 2, and it's made up of around 3,000 stars and spans between six and 13 light-years across.
Westerlund 2 is a young cluster -- only about 2 million years old -- so the stars its forming have yet to make their way into deeper space. Meanwhile, the clouds of gas and dust that form pillars and valleys around the new stars interact with them -- and serve as an incubator for even more glittering stars.
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