The Hubble Space Telescope was put into orbit on 24 April, 1990, and to this day it continues to send images of great scientific relevance. These photographs are not only examples of advances in astronomy but also serve as artistic delights for the human eye. Hubble is located 593 kilometres above sea level and takes between 96 and 97 minutes to orbit the earth. This slideshow will look at some of its most stunning images.
Spiral Galaxy M100
One of the most famous images captured by Hubble shows Spiral Galaxy M100 in all its splendour. This galaxy bears a certain resemblance to the Milky Way and is made up of 100 billion stars. The photograph was taken in 1993 and what we see is actually how the galaxy looked 150 million light years ago.
Related: Science's greatest mysteries
VY Canis Majoris (polarised light)
VY Canis Majoris is considered a hypergiant star because of its luminosity. It is 5,000 light years away from the earth and has been studied for more than 100 years. A surprising fact is that it is 500,000 times brighter than our sun and has 30 to 40 times its mass. The image was published in 2007 and is the result of several frames from Hubble being combined, common practice in studies of astrological images.
Due to its expressionism and dramatic visual force, NASA compared this image, taken on 8 February in 2004, to the brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh. However, the photograph’s value to scientists is not in its stunning visual beauty. Instead, experts measure its importance in the fact that it is the most recent evidence of the expansion of a bright halo belonging to a supergiant star.
Related: 6 things commonly mistaken for UFOs
Strange ring-shaped structure
One of the first relevant images captured by Hubble was of a mysterious ring shape around supernova 1987A. The image shows how the universe is capable of presenting us with galactic landscapes beyond what is imaginable. This image surprised scientists when it was taken on 19 May, 1994.
Related: The most credible UFO encounters
Galactic nucleus of Centaurus A
This image, of an immense black hole hidden in the middle of a giant galaxy that is feeding on a smaller galaxy, was described by NASA as “an unprecedented look at the nearest example of galactic cannibalism”. The photograph was taken on 14 May, 1998. To the untrained eye the image does not seem particularly important but for astronomers it is an extremely interesting and striking image.
Related: The world's 10 weirdest hotspots
A union of galaxies, Abell 520
This image, released in 2008, is the result of a combination of frames from Hubble and the Canada- France-Hawaii telescope, based in Hawaii. Gases and various galaxies can be seen merging in the image. It is one of the most beautiful to be featured in our list.
Gas Pillars of the Eagle Nebula
The columns seen in this image are in fact interstellar hydrogen gas and dust, which will later make up part of the process that forms stars. The photograph, produced by superimposing three images, was taken on 1 April, 1995. It focuses on the Eagle Nebula, also known as M16. The pillar on the left is the biggest and its distance from top to bottom is estimated to be four light years.
Related: The Higgs boson, why does it matter?
Planetary Nebula NGC 7009
What we see in the middle of the frame is a bright star surrounded by a defensive field of red and blue gas. The gas is trapped by a greenish material that is the outer layer of a star. The image is witness to the death of several stars within the nebula NGC 7009. The nebula is located 1,400 light years from the constellation Aquarius. The photo was taken on April 28, 1998.
Related: A crash course in quantum physics
The Cat’s Eye Nebula
Mystery still surrounds many of the components that make up the Cat’s Eye Nebula, which was the first planetary nebula to be discovered by astronomers. The first photographs of it were obtained in 1994 and from these scientists were able to observe that it consists of high velocity gas expulsions, concentric gas shapes and quite unusual knots of gas.
Related: Top 10 paranormal hoaxes
In this image we see the Helix nebula surrounded by bright gases being expelled from a dying star that is similar in size to the sun. The Hubble cameras were pushed to their limits to capture this spectacular interplanetary show of colours. Indeed, to do the display justice, it was necessary to collaborate with the Inter-American Observatory telescope in Cerro Tololo, Chile.
Related: The mysteries of Mars explained