Refurbished Hubble Space Telescope returns new images

September 9, 2009 | 6 comments


Refurbished Hubble Space Telescope returns new images

CLICK TO ENLARGE + NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

The Butterfly nebula, formally designated NGC 6302, is a planetary nebula roughly 3,800 light-years from the sun. The term planetary nebula is something of a misnomer, which arises from the fact that they are often round and resemble planets in low-resolution observations. But in fact planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets—they are luminous clouds thrown off by dying stars.

The extended lobes of the Butterfly nebula are only a few thousand years old but were ejected with such high speed from their star that the nebula already spans more than two light-years.

This image of the nebula was released today in a suite of photographs from the newly revitalized Hubble Space Telescope. In a May space shuttle mission to Hubble, spacewalking astronauts completed a slew of repairs and upgrades to the 19-year-old observatory, including replacing the telescope’s workhorse camera with an enhanced successor, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). WFC3 captured this look at the Butterfly nebula in July.

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