Outer space is vast and full of darkness. But there is beauty to be found all throughout, as Hubble constantly reminds us.
Take this newly shared image of NGC 972, a spiral galaxy discovered by German-British astronomer William Herschel in 1784. It’s not our closest neighbor, at around 70 million light-years away, but it sure takes a good photo.
The image was snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope, and as you no doubt read already in the above tweet, those orange-pink flourishes peppered throughout the image are the product of hydrogen gas, a key building block for star formation, reacting to the light emitted by newborn stars. The darker patches of black mixed in among the brighter bits are cosmic dust.
NASA shares photos like this one all the time, and they never get old. Hubble is a frequent source of the stellar imagery, but remember: it launched in 1990 and is almost 30 years old now. It’s been serviced and upgraded over time, but it’s still an older piece of technology.
While Hubble is expected to stick around and continue beaming imagery back to Earth for another 10-20 years, its successor — the James Webb Space Telescope — is expected to launch in early 2021, and bring an array of improvements to Hubble’s core mission of peering into deep space.