In celebration of the 34th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers took a snapshot of the Little Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 76, or M76, located 3,400 light-years away in the northern circumpolar constellation Perseus. The name ‘Little Dumbbell’ comes from its shape that is a two-lobed structure of colorful, mottled, glowing gases resembling a balloon that’s been pinched around a middle waist. Like an inflating balloon, the lobes are expanding into space from a dying star seen as a white dot in the center. Blistering ultraviolet radiation from the super-hot star is causing the gases to glow. The red color is from nitrogen, and blue is from oxygen.
NASA, ESA, STScI

To celebrate the 34th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch, the telescope captured an image of the Little Dumbbell Nebula, or M76. M76 is a planetary nebula, an expanding shell of glowing gases that were ejected from a dying red giant star that eventually collapses to an ultra-dense and hot white dwarf. It gets its descriptive name from its shape: a ring, seen edge-on as the central bar structure, and two lobes on either opening of the ring.

Since its launch in 1990 Hubble has made 1.6 million observations of over 53,000 astronomical objects. Most of Hubble’s discoveries were not anticipated before launch, such as supermassive black holes, the atmospheres of exoplanets, gravitational lensing by dark matter, the presence of dark energy, and the abundance of planet formation among stars.

Learn more about the Little Dumbbell Nebula and Hubble.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI

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