NASA Staff Shared Their Favorite Hubble Photos for the Telescope's 30th Anniversary
We talked to over a dozen NASA experts, who revealed photos from the telescope that changed the way we look at space.
At the time of its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was one of the most significant projects NASA had ever embarked upon. It didn't put a human on the moon, but it has advanced our understanding of the universe in innumerable ways and was the first major optical telescope put into orbit.
In April, NASA is celebrating the telescope's 30th anniversary. Hubble's legacy is much more than pretty pictures of distant objects, but, for most people, that's a big part of what it's done. The telescope has produced iconic images that have changed the way we think about space and the vast expanses of stars, dark matter, and gaseous clouds that make up the Milky Way and beyond.
To celebrate the anniversary, Thrillist asked NASA staff members to share some of their favorite Hubble images.
Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division Director
My favorite is the detailed image of the Crab Nebula. Even better is the multiwavelength picture of the Crab Nebula that includes Chandra and Spitzer data as well.
The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant, the remnant of a star that ended its life in a supernova explosion about 1,000 years ago. The Hubble image of the Crab Nebula shows incredible detail in the structure of the nebular filaments. Since these filaments are the remnants of a star that exploded in a supernova, we are really looking directly at the insides of a star. And since all the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are created at the cores of stars through nuclear fusion, we are really looking at the star stuff from which the Earth and everything on it are made.
Jessica Regalado, Communications Engineer
My favorite Hubble image is the Crab Nebula. When I look closely into the image, I feel like something big has exploded, but there is serenity inside it, like the blue sky after a cloudy, rainy, dark day.
Michael Garcia, Hubble Program Scientist
M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is my favorite because I’ve spent a lot of time using Hubble and Chandra to find new black holes in M31 -- found over two dozen new ones -- and because you can see it with the naked eye. When I get out to my casita outside of Taos, New Mexico, where the skies are very dark and clear, the view of M31 is spectacular.
Mike Nolan, Systems Administrator
Growing up, the “Pillars of Creation” was my favorite Hubble image until the 20th-anniversary image titled “Mystic Mountain” was released. In “Mystic Mountain,” I love the colors and the few areas that look like arrows shooting through the tops of the “mountains.” Both of these images are incredible and truly stimulate our imaginations.
Morgan Van Arsdall, Systems Engineer
My favorite Hubble image is the original Hubble Deep Field. With this image, we could begin to visualize the incredible scale of the universe. Because it was taken over 10 days, the Hubble Deep Field also highlights Hubble’s outstanding pointing control capabilities.
Nzinga Tull, Systems Engineer
The “smiling galaxies” image taken by Hubble is one of my favorites. I’ve long been enamored by the notion of intergalactic connectedness, and this image captures that spirit for me with playfulness and joy
Maurice Henderson, Outreach Specialist
For a single image, the story of the Cat’s Eye Nebula is a favorite in my family. It doesn’t hurt that it hangs in our stairwell at home, backlit.
Taliha Brock, Resource Analyst
Hubble Embraces Spiral With Open Arms. This image reflects to me the eye of some superior force looking and embracing the galaxy.
Stephanie Clark, Outreach Specialist
Westerlund 2, a star cluster made up of about 3,000 stars, is my favorite Hubble image. I absolutely love the depth, color, and contrast of this spectacular star nursery.
Pat Crouse, Project Manager
I like the Tarantula Nebula because I like the dynamic appearance of the image.
Paul Morris, Video Producer
Messier 51, or the “Whirlpool Galaxy,” makes me stop in my tracks every time I see it. Over the past 30 years, Hubble has captured some truly stunning images, but there’s just something special to me that lives within the shape, the colors, and the action of Hubble’s Whirlpool Galaxy image; you can almost feel it spinning. I love it, I really love it.
Ken Carpenter, Project Scientist
My favorite Hubble image is the huge mosaic of the Carina Nebula. This is an image you can “fly into” and examine in amazing detail, to see multiple examples of star birth and star death and the interaction of stars with the dense interstellar clouds of dust and gas that exist throughout the region. You can see evaporating clouds and shock waves in those clouds and turbulence and flows in them as well. It is a great image to download and make a wall-sized print of -- then you can stare at it for hours in the comfort of your own home!
Lynn Foster Bassford, Flight Operations Manager
The jaw-dropping star-forming “Pillars of Creation” region of the M16 Eagle Nebula is my favorite Hubble image. The series, ranging from the famous April 1995 visible-light image that is displayed as I enter my house, to the upgraded 2014 image displaying thousands of more infant stars utilizing near-infrared light, symbolizes the diversity of our past and the exciting challenges in our future as we explore how our piece of the puzzle fits into the universe. I am eager for the story to continue through the next image of the series planned as the James Webb Space Telescope’s far-infrared punches through the pillar’s clouds to unveil planets around the young stars.