Bubble View For Hubble's 26th Birthday

The Hubble Telescope has celebrated its 26th year in orbit with an image of what appears to be a giant cosmic soap bubble.

The object is a Bubble Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the brilliant star within it.

Also known as NGC 7635, it lies 8,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia and was discovered in 1787.

The bright star to the left of centre is SAO 20575.

It glows with intense ultraviolet radiation and is between 10 and 20 times the mass of the Sun.

The cloud around the star already measures around 10 light-years in diameter and is still growing, NASA experts say.

Every year the Hubble spends part of its observation time capturing a spectacular view to celebrate the anniversary of its launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990.

Previous views of the Bubble Nebula have only been of small sections, due to its size in the sky but, thanks to a mosaic of four images, we can see the whole object in one picture for the first time.

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