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No fireworks show on Earth can match the brilliant lights captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA released this photo to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hubble, which was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990.
It's an image of a relatively young star cluster — young meaning only about 2 million years old. The cluster is called Westerlund 2 and contains around 3,000 stars, many of them very hot, bright and large compared to other stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
"This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
Blurry pictures sent back after the space telescope's launch had the American public wondering what NASA had spent $2 billion on, but a series of repairs fixed the problem in 1993.
Now Hubble sends back images like this, taken from around 20,000 light years away. (A light year is the distance light can travel in one year, about 6 trillion miles.) Westerlund 2, named after Bengt Westerlund, the Swedish astronomer who discovered it, is a relatively large star cluster, stretching out between six to 13 light years across.
The image is a composite of visible light captured by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and near-infrared light captured by its Wide Field Camera 3.
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- Beyond Hubble: Will Future Space Telescope Seek Alien Life by 2030? (Space.com)