2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar [Big Picture]

NEW YORK | Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 6:02pm EDT

As we head into the traditional western Holiday Season, we’d like to present 2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar.

  • Hubble Mosaic of the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has trained its razor-sharp eye on one of the universe's most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. This brilliant galaxy was named the Sombrero because of its resemblance to the broad rim and high-topped Mexican hat.    At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth. Photo: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURAHubble Mosaic of the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has trained its razor-sharp eye on one of the universe's most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. This brilliant galaxy was named the Sombrero because of its resemblance to the broad rim and high-topped Mexican hat. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth. Photo: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA
  • Extreme star cluster bursts into life in new Hubble image: The star-forming region NGC 3603 - seen here in the latest Hubble Space Telescope image - contains one of the most impressive massive young star clusters in the Milky Way. Bathed in gas and dust the cluster formed in a huge rush of star formation thought to have occurred around a million years ago. The hot blue stars at the core are responsible for carving out a huge cavity in the gas seen to the right of the star cluster in NGC 3603's centre. Photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) and ESA/Hubble CollaborationExtreme star cluster bursts into life in new Hubble image: The star-forming region NGC 3603 - seen here in the latest Hubble Space Telescope image - contains one of the most impressive massive young star clusters in the Milky Way. Bathed in gas and dust the cluster formed in a huge rush of star formation thought to have occurred around a million years ago. The hot blue stars at the core are responsible for carving out a huge cavity in the gas seen to the right of the star cluster in NGC 3603's centre. Photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) and ESA/Hubble Collaboration
  • Hubble sees galaxies galore: Galaxies, galaxies everywhere - as far as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope can see. This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years.    The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colours. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old.    In vibrant contrast to the rich harvest of classic spiral and elliptical galaxies, there is a zoo of oddball galaxies littering the field. Some look like toothpicks; others like links on a bracelet. A few appear to be interacting. These oddball galaxies chronicle a period when the universe was younger and more chaotic. Order and structure were just beginning to emerge. Photo: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF TeamHubble sees galaxies galore: Galaxies, galaxies everywhere - as far as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope can see. This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colours. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old. In vibrant contrast to the rich harvest of classic spiral and elliptical galaxies, there is a zoo of oddball galaxies littering the field. Some look like toothpicks; others like links on a bracelet. A few appear to be interacting. These oddball galaxies chronicle a period when the universe was younger and more chaotic. Order and structure were just beginning to emerge. Photo: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team
  • Hubble's sharpest view of the Orion Nebula: This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Photo: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto ( Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project TeamHubble's sharpest view of the Orion Nebula: This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Photo: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto ( Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team
  • Most detailed image of the Crab Nebula: One among the largest ever produced with the Earth-orbiting observatory - shows gives the most detailed view so far of the entire Crab Nebula ever made. The Crab is arguably the single most interesting object, as well as one of the most studied, in all of astronomy. The image is the largest image ever taken with Hubble's WFPC2 workhorse camera.    The Crab Nebula is one of the most intricately structured and highly dynamical objects ever observed. The new Hubble image of the Crab was assembled from 24 individual exposures taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and is the highest resolution image of the entire Crab Nebula ever made. Photo: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)Most detailed image of the Crab Nebula: One among the largest ever produced with the Earth-orbiting observatory - shows gives the most detailed view so far of the entire Crab Nebula ever made. The Crab is arguably the single most interesting object, as well as one of the most studied, in all of astronomy. The image is the largest image ever taken with Hubble's WFPC2 workhorse camera. The Crab Nebula is one of the most intricately structured and highly dynamical objects ever observed. The new Hubble image of the Crab was assembled from 24 individual exposures taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and is the highest resolution image of the entire Crab Nebula ever made. Photo: NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)
  • The Boomerang Nebula: The Boomerang Nebula is a young planetary nebula and the coldest object found in the Universe so far. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is yet another example of how Hubble's sharp eye reveals surprising details in celestial objects.    This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a young planetary nebula known (rather curiously) as the Boomerang Nebula. It is in the constellation of Centaurus, 5000 light-years from Earth. Planetary nebulae form around a bright, central star when it expels gas in the last stages of its life.    The Boomerang Nebula is one of the Universe's peculiar places. In 1995, using the 15-metre Swedish ESO Submillimetre Telescope in Chile, astronomers Sahai and Nyman revealed that it is the coldest place in the Universe found so far. With a temperature of -272C, it is only 1 degree warmer than absolute zero (the lowest limit for all temperatures). Even the -270C background glow from the Big Bang is warmer than this nebula. It is the only object found so far that has a temperature lower than the background radiation. Photo: European Space Agency, NASAThe Boomerang Nebula: The Boomerang Nebula is a young planetary nebula and the coldest object found in the Universe so far. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is yet another example of how Hubble's sharp eye reveals surprising details in celestial objects. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a young planetary nebula known (rather curiously) as the Boomerang Nebula. It is in the constellation of Centaurus, 5000 light-years from Earth. Planetary nebulae form around a bright, central star when it expels gas in the last stages of its life. The Boomerang Nebula is one of the Universe's peculiar places. In 1995, using the 15-metre Swedish ESO Submillimetre Telescope in Chile, astronomers Sahai and Nyman revealed that it is the coldest place in the Universe found so far. With a temperature of -272C, it is only 1 degree warmer than absolute zero (the lowest limit for all temperatures). Even the -270C background glow from the Big Bang is warmer than this nebula. It is the only object found so far that has a temperature lower than the background radiation. Photo: European Space Agency, NASA
  • A Poster-Size Image of the Beautiful Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300: One of the largest Hubble Space Telescope images ever made of a complete galaxy is being unveiled today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, Calif.    The Hubble telescope captured a display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust in this 4-foot-by-8-foot image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300. NGC 1300 is considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. Barred spirals differ from normal spiral galaxies in that the arms of the galaxy do not spiral all the way into the center, but are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars containing the nucleus at its center. Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURAA Poster-Size Image of the Beautiful Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300: One of the largest Hubble Space Telescope images ever made of a complete galaxy is being unveiled today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, Calif. The Hubble telescope captured a display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust in this 4-foot-by-8-foot image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300. NGC 1300 is considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. Barred spirals differ from normal spiral galaxies in that the arms of the galaxy do not spiral all the way into the center, but are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars containing the nucleus at its center. Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA
  • The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and companion galaxy: The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust.    This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure. Photo: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and companion galaxy: The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure. Photo: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)
  • Symphony of colours in the Tarantula: The Tarantula is situated 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in the Southern sky and is clearly visible to the naked eye as a large milky patch. Astronomers believe that this smallish irregular galaxy is currently going through a violent period in its life. It is orbiting around the Milky Way and has had several close encounters with it. It is believed that the interaction with the Milky Way has caused an episode of energetic star formation - part of which is visible as the Tarantula Nebula. Photo: ESA/NASA, ESO and Danny LaCrueSymphony of colours in the Tarantula: The Tarantula is situated 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in the Southern sky and is clearly visible to the naked eye as a large milky patch. Astronomers believe that this smallish irregular galaxy is currently going through a violent period in its life. It is orbiting around the Milky Way and has had several close encounters with it. It is believed that the interaction with the Milky Way has caused an episode of energetic star formation - part of which is visible as the Tarantula Nebula. Photo: ESA/NASA, ESO and Danny LaCrue
  • Nebula NGC 2080, nicknamed the 'Ghost Head Nebula': The 'Ghost Head Nebula' is one of a chain of star-forming regions lying south of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Two bright regions (the 'eyes of the ghost'), named A1 (left) and A2 (right), are very hot, glowing 'blobs' of hydrogen and oxygen. The bubble in A1 is produced by the hot, intense radiation and powerful stellar wind from a single massive star. A2 has a more complex appearance due to the presence of more dust, and it contains several hidden, massive stars. The massive stars in A1 and A2 must have formed within the last 10 000 years since their natal gas shrouds are not yet disrupted by the powerful radiation of the newly born stars. Photo: ESA, NASA and Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France)Nebula NGC 2080, nicknamed the 'Ghost Head Nebula': The 'Ghost Head Nebula' is one of a chain of star-forming regions lying south of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Two bright regions (the 'eyes of the ghost'), named A1 (left) and A2 (right), are very hot, glowing 'blobs' of hydrogen and oxygen. The bubble in A1 is produced by the hot, intense radiation and powerful stellar wind from a single massive star. A2 has a more complex appearance due to the presence of more dust, and it contains several hidden, massive stars. The massive stars in A1 and A2 must have formed within the last 10 000 years since their natal gas shrouds are not yet disrupted by the powerful radiation of the newly born stars. Photo: ESA, NASA and Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France)
  • Light continues to echo three years after stellar outburst: The Hubble Space Telescope's latest image of the star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the illumination of surrounding dusty cloud structures. The effect, called a light echo, has been unveiling never-before-seen dust patterns ever since the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002. Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)Light continues to echo three years after stellar outburst: The Hubble Space Telescope's latest image of the star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the illumination of surrounding dusty cloud structures. The effect, called a light echo, has been unveiling never-before-seen dust patterns ever since the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002. Photo: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)
  • Hubble images remarkable double cluster: Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our neighbouring dwarf galaxies, this young globular-like star cluster is surrounded by a pattern of filamentary nebulosity that is thought to have been created during supernova blasts. It consists of a main globular cluster in the centre and a younger, smaller cluster, seen below and to the right, composed of extremely hot, blue stars and fainter, red T-Tauri stars. This wide variety of stars allows a thorough study of star formation processes. Photo: ESA, NASA and Martino Romaniello (European Southern Observatory, Germany)Hubble images remarkable double cluster: Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our neighbouring dwarf galaxies, this young globular-like star cluster is surrounded by a pattern of filamentary nebulosity that is thought to have been created during supernova blasts. It consists of a main globular cluster in the centre and a younger, smaller cluster, seen below and to the right, composed of extremely hot, blue stars and fainter, red T-Tauri stars. This wide variety of stars allows a thorough study of star formation processes. Photo: ESA, NASA and Martino Romaniello (European Southern Observatory, Germany)
  • Hubble's newest camera eyes hotbed of star formation: A watercolour fantasyland? No. It's actually a photograph of the centre of the Swan Nebula, or M17, a hotbed of newly born stars wrapped in colourful blankets of glowing gas and cradled in an enormous cold, dark hydrogen cloud. This stunning picture was taken by the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The region of the nebula shown in this picture is about 3500 times wider than our Solar System. The area also represents about 60 percent of the total view captured by ACS. The nebula resides 5500 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Photo: NASA, Holland Ford (JHU), the ACS Science Team and ESAHubble's newest camera eyes hotbed of star formation: A watercolour fantasyland? No. It's actually a photograph of the centre of the Swan Nebula, or M17, a hotbed of newly born stars wrapped in colourful blankets of glowing gas and cradled in an enormous cold, dark hydrogen cloud. This stunning picture was taken by the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The region of the nebula shown in this picture is about 3500 times wider than our Solar System. The area also represents about 60 percent of the total view captured by ACS. The nebula resides 5500 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. Photo: NASA, Holland Ford (JHU), the ACS Science Team and ESA
  • A perfect storm of turbulent gases: Like the fury of a raging sea, this anniversary image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a bubbly ocean of glowing hydrogen, oxygen, and sulphur gas in the extremely massive and luminous molecular nebula Messier 17. This Hubble photograph captures a small region within Messier 17 (M17), a hotbed of star formation. M17, also known as the Omega or Swan Nebula, is located about 5500 light-years away in the Sagittarius constellation. The release of this image commemorates the thirteenth anniversary of Hubble's launch on 24 April 1990. The wave-like patterns of gas have been sculpted and illuminated by a torrent of ultraviolet radiation from young, massive stars (which lie outside the picture to the upper left). The glow of these patterns highlights the 3D structure of the gases. The ultraviolet radiation is carving and heating the surfaces of cold hydrogen gas clouds. The warmed surfaces glow orange and red in this image. The intense heat and pressure cause some material to stream away from the surface, creating the glowing veil of even hotter green-coloured gas that masks background structures. The pressure on the tips of the waves may trigger new star formation within them. The image, roughly 3 light-years across, was taken on 29-30 May 1999, with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colours in the image represent various gases. Red represents sulphur; green, hydrogen; and blue, oxygen. Photo: European Space Agency, NASA, and J. Hester (Arizona State University)A perfect storm of turbulent gases: Like the fury of a raging sea, this anniversary image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a bubbly ocean of glowing hydrogen, oxygen, and sulphur gas in the extremely massive and luminous molecular nebula Messier 17. This Hubble photograph captures a small region within Messier 17 (M17), a hotbed of star formation. M17, also known as the Omega or Swan Nebula, is located about 5500 light-years away in the Sagittarius constellation. The release of this image commemorates the thirteenth anniversary of Hubble's launch on 24 April 1990. The wave-like patterns of gas have been sculpted and illuminated by a torrent of ultraviolet radiation from young, massive stars (which lie outside the picture to the upper left). The glow of these patterns highlights the 3D structure of the gases. The ultraviolet radiation is carving and heating the surfaces of cold hydrogen gas clouds. The warmed surfaces glow orange and red in this image. The intense heat and pressure cause some material to stream away from the surface, creating the glowing veil of even hotter green-coloured gas that masks background structures. The pressure on the tips of the waves may trigger new star formation within them. The image, roughly 3 light-years across, was taken on 29-30 May 1999, with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colours in the image represent various gases. Red represents sulphur; green, hydrogen; and blue, oxygen. Photo: European Space Agency, NASA, and J. Hester (Arizona State University)
  • The magnificent starburst galaxy Messier 82: This mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82) is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. It is a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out from its central regions where young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside in our Milky Way Galaxy. Photo: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI) and P. Puxley (NSF).The magnificent starburst galaxy Messier 82: This mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82) is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. It is a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out from its central regions where young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside in our Milky Way Galaxy. Photo: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI) and P. Puxley (NSF).
  • Holiday Wishes from the Hubble Space Telescope: In the new Hubble image of the galaxy M74 we can also see a smattering of bright pink regions decorating the spiral arms. These are huge, relatively short-lived, clouds of hydrogen gas which glow due to the strong radiation from hot, young stars embedded within them; glowing pink regions of ionized hydrogen (hydrogen that has lost its electrons). These regions of star formation show an excess of light at ultraviolet wavelengths and astronomers call them HII regions. Photo: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) and ESA/Hubble CollaborationHoliday Wishes from the Hubble Space Telescope: In the new Hubble image of the galaxy M74 we can also see a smattering of bright pink regions decorating the spiral arms. These are huge, relatively short-lived, clouds of hydrogen gas which glow due to the strong radiation from hot, young stars embedded within them; glowing pink regions of ionized hydrogen (hydrogen that has lost its electrons). These regions of star formation show an excess of light at ultraviolet wavelengths and astronomers call them HII regions. Photo: NASA, ESA, The Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) and ESA/Hubble Collaboration
  • Colliding Galaxies Make Love, Not War: This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters. Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).Colliding Galaxies Make Love, Not War: This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters. Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).
  • Great observatories composite: Composite of images of the active galaxy Messier 82 from the three Great Observatories: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. X-ray data recorded by Chandra appears here in blue, infrared light recorded by Spitzer appears in red. Hubble's observation of hydrogen emission appears in orange. Hubble's bluest observation appears in yellow-green. Photo: NASA, ESA, CXC, and JPL-CaltechGreat observatories composite: Composite of images of the active galaxy Messier 82 from the three Great Observatories: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. X-ray data recorded by Chandra appears here in blue, infrared light recorded by Spitzer appears in red. Hubble's observation of hydrogen emission appears in orange. Hubble's bluest observation appears in yellow-green. Photo: NASA, ESA, CXC, and JPL-Caltech

As we head into the traditional western Holiday Season, we’d like to present 2010 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar. Some of the pictures in this calendar (check the gallery above) are new, some are old ones.

But they all are really beautiful and breathtaking. As I take this chance to share these awesome pictures of our truly amazing Universe with You, I wish for a Happy Holiday to all those who will celebrate, and for Peace on Earth to everyone.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a space shuttle in 1990. Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well-known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy.

The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute.

It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble. The HST is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Space telescopes were proposed as early as 1923. Hubble was funded in the 1970s, with a proposed launch in 1983, but the project was beset by technical delays, budget problems, and the Challenger disaster.

When finally launched in 1990, scientists found that the main mirror had been ground incorrectly, severely compromising the telescope’s capabilities.

However, after a servicing mission in 1993, the telescope was restored to its intended quality. Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely sharp images with almost no background light.

Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field image, for instance, is the most detailed visible-light image ever made of the universe’s most distant objects. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.

Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Four servicing missions were performed from 1993 to 2002, but the fifth was canceled on safety grounds following the Columbia disaster.

However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009.

The telescope is now expected to function until at least 2014, when its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is due to be launched. [via Space Telescope]

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