Hubble Telescope Nearing Retirement Captures Rare Death Of A Star [Video]

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Nearing the end of its operational lifespan, the Hubble Space Telescope offered a startling surprise by capturing a spectacular image of the death of a low-mass star like the sun.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center released a photo taken by the Hubble taken from the Calabash Nebula. The image is described as a star going through a rapid transformation. It is in the process of transforming from a red giant to a planetary nebula, NASA reported.

According to astronomers, it is rare to capture an image of a star in such a phase, since they occur within the blink of an eye - in astronomical terms. Accordingly, the next thousand years will see the nebula evolve into a fully-fledged planetary nebula.

The constellation Puppis, where the nebula is located is 5,000 light-year distance from Earth. The gap is fortunate for it is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula. The reason is it contains a lot of sulfur, that when combined with other elements make it smell like rotten eggs.

The Hubble is nearing retirement

The 26-year-old Hubble Space Telescope is nearing the end of its operational lifespan. Maintenance service has been done to it until 2011 coinciding with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Since then, NASA has no means to conduct maintenance on the orbiting space observatory. It is expected at any time, that Hubble would fail and there would be no way to repair it further.

The Hubble was launched into space on Apr. 24, 1990 by the space shuttle Discovery. According to, the team responsible for the Hubble is aiming to keep the telescope operational through 2020, ensuring at least a year overlap with its $8.8 billion successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.

With its service life about to end, the Hubble still fascinates with images it sends back to Earth, which can be checked out here. Knowing that a suitable replacement in the James Webb will be in place soon in 2018, is an exciting prospect citing it will be placed farther from Earth than the moon and 100 times more powerful than the Hubble will.

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