Not so long ago, astronomers thought of the Milky Way’s central bulge as an old folks home where mostly ancient stars congregated and slowly moved about. But more recent observations, including this spectacular view captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, and an analysis of about 10,000 suns in the bulge reveal a much more dynamic environment where stars of various ages move about at different speeds. The faster, younger stars may have been captured as the Milky Way cannibalised smaller galaxies, mingling with older, slower-moving suns.
Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. Stunned astronomers have witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova — events which already rank amongst the mightiest outbursts in the universe — and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova.
This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, released to celebrate Hubble’s 26th year in orbit, captures in stunning clarity an object known as the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) — a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the brilliant star within it. The vivid new portrait wins the Bubble Nebula a place in the exclusive Hubble hall of fame.