Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD

October 21, 1998


A vibrant celestial photo album of some of NASA Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning views of the universe is being unveiled today on the Internet.

Called the Hubble Heritage Program, this Technicolor gallery is being assembled by a team of astronomers at Hubble's science operations center, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, MD.

The Hubble Heritage program is intended to provide the public with some of the very best celestial views the Space Telescope has to offer.

A "newly processed" Hubble "picture of the month" will be shared with the public on an ongoing basis at a dedicated web site: A new image will be posted on the first Thursday of every month. The STScI team is sifting through Hubble telescope's treasure trove of space images to uncover some of the most striking pictures ever taken by the orbiting observatory.

The Hubble images were originally taken for astronomical research. The images are digitally stored on optical disks in the Hubble archives for other scientists to retrieve for further research.

Aside from scientific value, the images offer compelling views of the universe's infinite wonders. They include all types of astronomical phenomena, from nearby planets, to colorful nebulae, to remote galaxies.

The first batch of pictures released today includes a view into the star-studded hub of our galaxy; Saturn in "natural color"; a stellar-wind sculpted bubble carved by a massive hot star; and an overhead view of a magnificent spiral galaxy, dubbed "sunny side up."

Since its launch in 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope has taken pictures of over 10,000 celestial objects. The most scientifically interesting observations have been released to news organizations routinely. A large number of pictures have not previously been presented to the public.

The task of selecting images for the Hubble Heritage project involves more than just flipping through Hubble's 5.4-terabyte scrapbook of over 130,000 space pictures. Beautiful color pictures have been meticulously assembled by skilled image processing specialists at STScI.

The images selected from the archive are originally black and white and must be combined with other pictures of the same object, taken through different filters. Photographic film, home video cameras, and even the human eye reconstruct color views in a similar manner.

The Institute's image processing specialists carefully selected colors to bring out the most detail in the pictures. These aesthetic pictures can also yield new insights into the nature of a celestial object.

The team continues working away on Hubble images, and assembling enticing new views of celestial wonders for the public.

"These images communicate, at a visceral level, the awe and excitement that we experience when exploring the universe with Hubble. It is our chance to repay the public that supports us," says Heritage program scientist Keith Noll.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Images and photo captions associated with this release are available on the Internet at:






What may first appear as a sunny side up egg is actually NASA Hubble Space Telescope's face-on snapshot of the small spiral galaxy NGC 7742. But NGC 7742 is not a run-of-the-mill spiral galaxy. In fact, this spiral is known to be a Seyfert 2 active galaxy, a type of galaxy that is probably powered by a black hole residing in its core. The core of NGC 7742 is the large yellow "yolk" in the center of the image. The lumpy, thick ring around this core is an area of active starbirth. The ring is about 3,000 light-years from the core. Tightly wound spiral arms also are faintly visible. Surrounding the inner ring is a wispy band of material, which is probably the remains of a once very active stellar breeding ground.

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided images of Saturn in many colors, from black-and-white, to orange, to blue, green, and red. But in this picture, image processing specialists have worked to provide a crisp, extremely accurate view of Saturn, which highlights the planet's pastel colors. Bands of subtle color - yellows, browns, grays - distinguish differences in the clouds over Saturn, the second largest planet in the solar system.

Saturn's high-altitude clouds are made of colorless ammonia ice. Above these clouds is a layer of haze or smog, produced when ultraviolet light from the sun shines on methane gas. The smog contributes to the planet's subtle color variations. One of Saturn's moons, Enceladus, is seen casting a shadow on the giant planet as it passes just above the ring system.

The flattened disk swirling around Saturn is the planet's most recognizable feature, and this image displays it in sharp detail. This is the planet's ring system, consisting mostly of chunks of water ice. Although it appears as if the disk is composed of only a few rings, it actually consists of tens of thousands of thin "ringlets." This picture also shows the two classic divisions in the ring system. The narrow Encke Gap is nearest to the disk's outer edge; the Cassini division, is the wide gap near the center.

Scientists study Saturn and its ring system to gain insight into the birth of our solar system.

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has given us a keyhole view towards the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy, where a dazzling array of stars reside. Most of the view of our galaxy is obscured by dust. Hubble peered into the Sagittarius Star Cloud, a narrow, dust-free region, providing this spectacular glimpse of a treasure chest full of stars. Some of these gems are among the oldest inhabitants of our galaxy. By studying the older stars that pack our Milky Way's hub, scientists can learn more about the evolution of our galaxy.

Many of the brighter stars in this image show vivid colors. A star's color reveals its temperature, one of its most "vital statistics." Knowing a star's temperature and the power of the star's radiation allow scientists to make conclusions about its age and mass. Most blue stars are young and hot, up to ten times hotter than our Sun. They consume their fuel much faster and live shorter lives than our Sun. Red stars come in two flavors: small stars and "red giants". Smaller red stars generally have a temperature about half that of our Sun, consuming their fuel slowly and thus, live the longest. "Red giant" stars are at the end of their lives because they have exhausted their fuel. Although many "red giant" stars may have been ordinary stars like our Sun, as they die they swell up in size, become much cooler, and are much more luminous then they were during the majority of their stellar life.

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)



This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals an expanding shell of glowing gas surrounding a hot, massive star in our Milky Way Galaxy. This shell is being shaped by strong stellar winds of material and radiation produced by the bright star at the left, which is 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. These fierce winds are sculpting the surrounding material - composed of gas and dust - into the curve-shaped bubble. Astronomers have dubbed it the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635). The nebula is 10 light-years across, more than twice the distance from Earth to the nearest star. Only part of the bubble is visible in this image. The glowing gas in the lower right-hand corner is a dense region of material that is getting blasted by radiation from the Bubble Nebula's massive star. The radiation is eating into the gas, creating finger-like features. This interaction also heats up the gas, causing it to glow.

Scientists study the Bubble Nebula to understand how hot stars interact with the surrounding material.

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

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