There are times when “Wow!” just isn’t enough of a word. Astronomers just released movies made by stitching together 14 years of Hubble Space Telescope images to reveal the beautiful and fascinating movements of stellar gas clouds surrounding newborn stars.
Starlight from baby stars within the nebula blow outward in jets, sculpting nebulae into beautiful and exotic shapes in a way very similar to the way rain and wind sculpt the rocks of Arches National Park, Goblin Valley or Monument Valley.
After the images load they’ll automatically start showing the animations. Each frame of the movie represents a Hubble image taken at one year intervals of regions in our galaxy where stars are being born.
Notice that in each movie window a scale size marker is displayed – showing a scale distance of 1,000 Astronomical Units. 1 A.U. = the distance from the Sun to the Earth, which is 93 million miles (150 million km.)
That means that at this scale the distance from the Sun to our Earth is smaller (a lot smaller) than one pixel on these images. Or you could think of it like this – that line representing 1,000 A.U. represents a distance that a beam of light would require about six days to cover.
Hubble images have also been used this way to make a movie revealing the rapidly spinning pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula (click here).
The Hubble Space Telescope as a movie camera – who saw that coming?