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Hubble - greatest discoveries

Hubble - greatest discoveries

Formation of stars:
How Hubble observes stars as they form from huge dust clouds

The important clues about star formation lie hidden behind the veil of the dusty, and often very beautiful, star forming molecular clouds. Astronomers turn their eyes to the birth of other stars and stellar systems in neighbouring stellar 'maternity wards' and use these to see a replay of the events that created our own Solar System.

Inside the Orion Nebula

The large mosaic of 15 Hubble images showing the central part of the Orion complex is one of the most detailed images of a star forming region ever made.

Peering through dust

Dust clouds scatter visible light, but let infrared light through unimpeded, meaning infrared observations are often the only way to see young stars. During the servicing mission in 2009 the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) was installed. An instrument designed to make detailed images both in visible light and in infrared. The WFC3 offers greatly improved capabilities in the infrared compared to what was possible before.

WFC3's images of the Carina Nebula made in visible light show dense clouds of dust and gas. But the images taken by the camera of the same region in infrared make the dust fade, leaving just a faint outline of its location. The young stars forming inside the cloud are suddenly revealed.

Star formation and the history of the cosmos

Hubble has also contributed to our understanding of star formation beyond the confines of the Milky Way. Neither Hubble nor any other telescope is able to see individual stars outside of the Milky Way and a handful of nearby galaxies. However, the telescope has contributed to major discoveries about star formation in the far reaches of the Universe. Studying starlight from the most distant objects Hubble has observed gives clues about how stars formed in the early years of the Universe, and how they have changed over time.

Hubble discoveries in the field of star formation in the early Universe include the realisation that stars and galaxies formed earlier in cosmic history than previously thought.

This is one of nine articles highlighting some of the greatest discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more in the articles linked from the right-hand menu.

Last Update: 1 September 2019
17-Apr-2024 15:52 UT

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