On April 22nd we celebrated Earth Day, and NASA, being no slouch in such matters, joined in the fun. NASA started a new hashtag #24Seven, to share how they never stop studying Earth and let the public join in. They encouraged people to share how they celebrated Earth Day and what they were doing to better understand and preserve our planet. You can check out everyone’s contribution to the hashtag here. They also posted beautiful images of Earth in their Earth Day Image Gallery, and released a high-definition video of Earth taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Orbiting above the Earth, it captures clouds over blue oceans before moving onto the dark side of the planet.
Looking at images of Earth has become a common occurrence for us, but in December 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 took the first picture of the planet from space. It has become an iconic image of our planet and the first of so many to follow. It was the first time anyone had seen the Earth in its entirety, a small blue planet floating in the blackness of space. One could argue it was the first time humans received a glimpse of their place in the Universe and the tenuousness of our planet’s existence. From this perspective, we are the aliens on an unknown planet, in a universe we barely understand.
In Hubble news, the telescope celebrated its 26th orbit around the Sun at the end of April; and to commemorate the event, NASA released a gorgeous image of the Bubble Nebula. NASA even created a short video zooming towards the Bubble Nebula through space. It received its name for obvious reasons, from our perspective it looks as though a bubble is suspended in space surrounded by cotton candy stars and purple gas. What’s really happening is that a massive, very hot star, 45 times more massive than our Sun, is forming a nebula. The gas in the star gets extremely hot and creates stellar winds that blow at over four million miles per hour. As the hot winds move outward, it pushes the cold, interstellar gas with it, forming what looks like a bubble. The surrounding gases are heated to different temperatures, creating the various colors from the hot blue bubble to cool yellow pillars that appear to be stretching toward the nebula. The Hubble team couldn’t pick a better image to celebrate another year in space.