Hubble Space Telescope detects Great Balls of Fire

Oct 10, 2016 17:05 IST

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in the first week of October 2016 detected Great Balls of Fire.

These superhot blobs of gas, each twice as big as the planet Mars, were being ejected near a dying star.

These plasma balls are moving so fast through space that it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the moon. The observations suggest that these balls of fire have been appearing every 8.5 years for at least the last four centuries.

The gas balls were observed near a red giant called V Hydrae that is about 1200 light-years away from Earth.

Significance

If scientists can discover where these balls come from, it could also explain other weird shapes seen in the cloud of gas around dying stars, some of which have been difficult for scientists to explain.

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About Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It remains in operation. It could last until 2030–2040.

It is one of the largest and most versatile vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy.

It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, and is one of NASA's Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

With a 2.4-meter mirror, its four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible and near infrared spectra.

It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) selects Hubble's targets and processes the resulting data, while the Goddard Space Flight Center controls the spacecraft.

It is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.

Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is scheduled for launch in 2018.

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