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NASA Hubble delivers space sparklers in time for July 4

A radiant star cluster looks like celestial fireworks in a brilliant Hubble image.

Brilliant stars shine in this Hubble view of cluster NGC 330.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Kalirai, A. Milone

The Hubble Space Telescope may be stuck in safe mode, but newly processed images and data are still streaming out from NASA and the European Space Agency. One of the latest is the patriotic-looking fiesta of celestial fireworks that is open star cluster NGC 330.

An open cluster is a loose group of fairly young stars. Red, white and blue colors highlighting the stars in the Hubble image make NGC 330 look like a close-up view of sparklers at night. 

"Because star clusters form from a single primordial cloud of gas and dust, all the stars they contain are roughly the same age. This makes them useful natural laboratories for astronomers to learn how stars form and evolve," ESA said in a statement shared by NASA on Friday.  

"Ready for the 4th of July weekend?" the NASA Hubble team tweeted along with a dazzling look at the cluster.

NGC 330 is located 180,000 light-years away in the constellation Tucana, the Toucan. 

Take a closer look at some of those stars and you'll see a trademark of many Hubble images: four spikes of light emanating from each of the brightest points. "The crisscross patterns surrounding the stars in this image, known as diffraction spikes, were created when starlight interacted with the four thin vanes supporting Hubble's secondary mirror," ESA explained.

NASA has a history of marking US Independence Day with colorful Hubble views. A 2019 release featured an explosive look at star system Eta Carinae.

The telescope itself will likely spend the weekend with its science instruments shut down as NASA continues to troubleshoot a memory problem that put it into a protective safe mode in June. With over three decades of work under its belt, Hubble has had quite a run already.

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