Friday, April 24, 2015

Think you're a star?

Truly inspiring; 25 years of pictures from the Hubble space telescope are being celebrated at the moment with some stunning old and new images taken from a vantage point roughly 500km above the Earth. Here we have the remains of a star that has run out of fuel and exploded (a supernova) this image shows the expanding matter that was once a throbbing ball of thermonuclear homeliness just like our own Sun but is now an interstellar splat 6 light years wide, which, if you were to blast across it from edge to edge in a Concord would take you about 3 million years! Of course heat-death is a fate that awaits us all eventually, like a cosmic Bruce Forsyth after billions of years of burning bright, every star comes to the end of it's time in the spotlight; some go out with a (big) bang like this one, some (like our own Sun) just expand, shrink and then fade.

Hubble has been a fantastic achievement; it' wasn't supposed to last this long but after a couple of maintenance visits from the space shuttle in the 90s it's life is now expected to stretch until 2030. We don't need to wait that long however to see the next generation of space telescopes; the James Webb telescope (due to be launched in 2018) will see a 100X improvement in performance over Hubble, I can't wait to see the results!

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