Hubble is beginning celebrations early for its 22nd birthday with this composite image, a fantastic combination of ground- and space-based observations of the Tarantula Nebula.Neither Hubble nor I can see without corrective lenses, but Hubble’s eye gear puts my contact lenses to shame. This composite image of the Tarantula Nebula just released by NASA for Hubble’s upcoming 22nd anniversary shows what I mean. The Tarantula Nebula, a.k.a. 30 Doradus, is an incredibly active star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud and the largest, most active region of star formation in the Local Group of galaxies (to which the Milky Way belongs). Its claims to fame include being the site of SN 1987A, the supernova that revolutionized modern stellar astronomy.
The composite image is one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos, although it doesn’t include just Hubble photos. The image is the result of combining observations taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys with ground-based data taken with the European Southern Observatory's 2.2-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile.
Although Hubble is still going strong, the shuttle that took it to space has retired. Yesterday, Discovery soared in over Washington, D.C. piggybacked on a 747, making three flyovers of the National Mall before landing at Dulles. The shuttle will soon move to its final roost at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, which is near Dulles.