To celebrate the birthday of its Hubble Space Telescope, NASA on Thursday shared an astonishing image of what’s called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635, a mass of gas and dust that sits about 7,100 light-years from Earth. Similar to the other hundreds of thousands of pictures snapped by Hubble, this one is stunning.
NASA says the Bubble Nebula is about seven light-years across, with gas so hot that it’s ejecting stellar winds traveling upwards of four million miles per hour.
“This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble much like a snowplow piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward,” NASA explained.
At its core, the star is about 45 times larger than our sun and is expected to detonate as a supernova in about 10 to 20 million years. In space, that’s not long at all.
As the surface of the bubble’s shell expands outward, it slams into dense regions of cold gas on one side of the bubble. This asymmetry makes the star appear dramatically off-center from the bubble, with its location in the 10 o’clock position in the Hubble view.
Dense pillars of cool hydrogen gas laced with dust appear at the upper left of the picture, and more “fingers” can be seen nearly face-on, behind the translucent bubble.
The Bubble Nebula was discovered by William Herschel all the way back in 1787, but I don’t think he ever expected us to get such a close view of the four-million-year-old star.