Hubble peers into the heart of the Lagoon Nebula

Marking the Hubble Space Telescope’s 28th anniversary in orbit, the observatory peered into the heart of the Lagoon Nebula, a favourite target for amateur astronomers, generating this spectacular view of a vast, chaotic stellar nursery some 4,000 light-years away. At the centre of the photo is a giant star 200,000 times brighter, and 32 times more massive, than the sun, blasting out powerful stellar winds and torrents of ultraviolet radiation.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured a spectacular view of the Lagoon Nebula to mark the observatory’s 28th anniversary. Image: NASA

“This region epitomises a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction,” NASA said in a photo release. “The clouds may look majestic and peaceful, but they are in a constant state of flux from the star’s torrent of searing radiation and high-speed particles from stellar winds. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material with its powerful energy, it is suppressing star formation around it.”

But star formation is proceeding in dense clouds of gas and dust at the “dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem,” the release says.

“Dark, elephant-like “trunks” of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars. They are analogous to desert buttes that resist weather erosion.”

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 captured the images making up this release between Feb. 12 and 18. A video fly-through is available here.