The prolific Hubble Space Telescope will hit an important milestone this weekend – the 20th anniversary of its launch. Hubble scientists are celebrating the iconic space telescope's milestone with a stunning new photo of pillar-like mountains of dust in a well-known nebula.
The stunning Hubble photo below shows just a small part of the Carina Nebula, one of the largest seen star-birth regions in our galaxy. It captures the top of a 3 light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars.
The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside emit jets of gas that can be seen streaming from the towering peaks.
The Hubble launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble's discoveries and evocative images were revolutionary in a number of areas of astronomical research, ranging from planetary science to cosmology.
To date, Hubble has observed over 30,000 celestial targets and amassed more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The most recent astronaut servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than two decades ago when it was first launched.