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NASA unveils 30 dazzling new Hubble space images for an epic anniversary

The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating 30 years in orbit with fresh looks at gorgeous nebulae, stars and galaxies.

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Amanda Kooser
Planetary nebula NGC 40
1 of 30 NASA, ESA, and H. Bond (Pennsylvania State University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Planetary nebula NGC 40

In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope's 30th anniversary, NASA revealed 30 freshly processed images of space objects from the Caldwell catalog, a collection of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies that are bright enough to be spotted by amateur astronomers. That means you can not only enjoy the Hubble versions, you can also try to find them for yourself with the right gear.

This ghostly blob is planetary nebula NGC 40, also known as Caldwell 2. "A shell of gas is expanding outward from the nebula's central star, which has reached the final stage of its life," said NASA.

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2 of 30 NASA, ESA, and S. Casertano (Space Telescope Science Institute); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Scenic stars of the Double Cluster

These celestial sparklers are Caldwell 14, better known as the Double Cluster of the Perseus constellation. "To the naked eye, the two clusters look like one large hazy patch, but binoculars and telescopes neatly split the pair, providing beautiful views of this celestial treasure," said NASA.

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3 of 30 NASA, ESA, and A. Ferguson (University of Edinburgh, Institute for Astronomy); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Dwarf galaxy dazzler

Caldwell 17 is a dwarf galaxy called NGC 147. This may be one of the more challenging Caldwell objects to find. "Dwarf satellite galaxies tend to appear very diffuse and dim, so they can be difficult to spot (especially in light-polluted or hazy skies)," said NASA. You'll need a dark area and a decent telescope to find this lovely galaxy.

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4 of 30

Active galaxy NGC 185

This fuzzy wonder is dwarf galaxy NGC 185 and it's listed at 18 in the Caldwell catalog. NASA suggests spotting it with powerful binoculars. It can be found lurking in Cassiopeia.

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5 of 30

Scenic spiral galaxy NGC 5005

Astronomers think there's a supermassive black hole at the heart of NGC 5005, a lovely spiral galaxy that is Caldwell 29. NASA said to look to the constellation Cane Venatici with a small telescope in order to find this one.

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6 of 30 NASA, ESA, and S. Smartt (The Queen's University of Belfast); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Spiral in the sky

NGC 4559 (Caldwell 36) is a glittering example of a spiral galaxy. The core and some of its arms are visible in this Hubble image. It takes a medium-size telescope to find it.

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7 of 30 NASA, ESA, and P. Erwin (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Galactic bulge in NGC 3626

Spiral galaxy NGC 3626 (Caldwell 40) sports an impressive center known as a galactic bulge. "This structure is a densely packed region of stars that encompasses the heart of a spiral galaxy," said NASA. "Most galactic bulges host supermassive black holes, with the masses of the black hole and the bulge typically linked (bigger bulges harbor more monstrous black holes)."

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8 of 30 NASA, ESA, J. Lee (California Institute of Technology), and A. Filippenko (University of California – Berkeley); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Glorious NGC 5248 and its starbursts

Spiral galaxies are some of the most eye-popping objects out there in space. NGC 5248 (Caldwell 45) is another great example. NASA called out the notable ring structure around its nucleus, indicating starburst activity. "Starburst regions are sites where stars form at a much higher rate than usual," the agency said.

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9 of 30 NASA, ESA, and J. Holtzman (New Mexico State University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Elusive galaxy IC 1613

Up for a challenge? Then try to find dwarf galaxy IC 1613, also known as Caldwell 51, in the constellation Cetus. "Caldwell 51 is very difficult to spot and is one of the most elusive Caldwell objects," said NASA. "It appears as an extremely faint and diffuse smudge in the sky, even when viewed through moderately sized telescopes." Hubble was able to find it, but it's a tough one for amateurs.

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10 of 30 NASA, ESA, and C. Sarazin (University of Virginia); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Glowing galaxy Caldwell 52

Caldwell 52 (NGC 4697) is an elliptical galaxy located 40 million light-years away from Earth. "The galaxy's core can be spotted with a small telescope in a suburban sky. From a darker location, the galaxy appears as an elongated patch of fuzz," said NASA.

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11 of 30 NASA, ESA, and J. Erwin (University of Alabama); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Lenticular galaxy NGC 3115

Caldwell 53 (NGC 3115) is an example of a lenticular galaxy. You'll note that it doesn't have the splashy arcing arms of a spiral galaxy. NASA said, "This galaxy, like most of its kind, hosts an elderly stellar population and has used up nearly all of its star-forming material."

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12 of 30 NASA, ESA, J. Westphal (California Institute of Technology), and K. Werner (Eberhard Karls Universitat); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Nebula with the blues

Planetary nebula NGC 246 (Caldwell 56) takes on a blue hue in this processed Hubble Space Telescope image. "Planetary nebulae are named such because when they were first observed through early telescopes, they resembled planets," said NASA. "However, a planetary nebula is actually the final stage in the evolution of a star that is similar to our sun."  

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13 of 30 NASA, ESA, and T. von Hippel (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Caroline's Cluster

This gloriously spangled collection of stars has several names: Caldwell 58, NGC 2360 or Caroline's Cluster. The star cluster was named for German astronomer Caroline Herschel, who discovered it in 1783. "Caldwell 58 is an open cluster — a group of stars loosely bound together by gravity," NASA said.  

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14 of 30 NASA, ESA, G. Fahlman (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), R. Ibata (Université de Strasbourg), and F. Ferraro (Università di Bologna); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Caldwell 66

Get your kicks looking at Caldwell 66. Globular cluster NGC 5694 is 100,000 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. You'll need at least a small telescope to spot it. Hubble was able to capture this wonderful view.

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15 of 30 NASA, ESA, and K. Stapelfeldt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Hazy reflection nebula NGC 6729

This ghostly nebula is Caldwell 68 (NGC 6729). "Reflection nebulae are star-forming clouds of gas and dust that glow with the energy emitted from a hot, nearby star," said NASA in describing the nebula as part of its Caldwell catalog of space objects imaged by Hubble.

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16 of 30 NASA, ESA, and T. von Hippel (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Space sparkles

Open star cluster NGC 2477 is listed at 71 in the Caldwell catalog of space objects visible to amateur astronomers. This Hubble image was newly processed in honor of the space telescope's 30th anniversary in 2020.

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17 of 30 NASA, ESA, R. de Jong (Leibniz-Institut fur Astrophysik Potsdam [AIP]), and G. Illingworth (University of California – Santa Cruz); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Cloudy galaxy

This understated galaxy is a beauty. Known as Caldwell 72 or NGC 55, it's 6.5 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor.

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18 of 30 NASA, ESA, and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Fuzzy cluster NGC 1851

Hubble brings us this glittery look at Caldwell 73 (NGC 1851), a dense globular cluster of stars. NASA said it "can be spotted through a pair of binoculars, appearing as a fuzzy patch of light." A telescope will help clear it up.

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19 of 30 NASA, ESA, and J. Maiz Apellaniz (Centro de Astrobiologia [CSIC/INTA]); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Twinkling star cluster NGC 6231

This classic-looking Hubble Space Telescope image of the Caldwell 76 (NGC 6231) star cluster looks like it should twinkle.

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20 of 30 NASA, ESA, and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Globular star cluster Caldwell 78

This globular star cluster might look similar to a previous one you saw, Caldwell 73, but it's different. This one is Caldwell 78 (NGC 6541) and is best viewed through a small telescope in order to appreciate its dazzling characteristics. Or you can just stare into this Hubble image.

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21 of 30 NASA, ESA, A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University), A. Kong (National Tsing Hua University), and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Caldwell 81

You're probably getting pretty good at spotting globular star clusters by now. This Hubble image shows Caldwell 81, also known as NGC 6352. According to NASA, it's about 12 billion years old.

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22 of 30 NASA, ESA, and J. Maiz Apellaniz (Centro de Astrobiologia [CSIC/INTA]); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

30 stars in a cluster

Caldwell 82 (NGC 6193) is a star cluster with some elbow room. It has around 30 stars, which are captured in wonderful detail in this Hubble image released in 2020 for the space telescope's 30th anniversary.

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23 of 30 NASA, ESA, and H. Falcke (Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Like our Milky Way

Barred spiral galaxy Caldwell 83, or NGC 4945, should remind you of home. It's a galaxy much like our own Milky Way. 

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24 of 30 NASA, ESA, A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University), and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Starry cluster

The Caldwell catalog of objects that can be spotted by amateur astronomers is full of star clusters, including this one as seen by Hubble. Caldwell 84 has a lovely round shape and is also known as NGC 5286.

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25 of 30 NASA, ESA, G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova), and A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Star cluster fun

Caldwell 87 (or NGC 1261) shows off another great Hubble Space Telescope view of a globular star cluster. Hubble's observations of star clusters like this one are helping astronomers better understand them. "It seems as though many globular clusters contain stars with varying chemical abundances, suggesting the stars are different ages," said NASA.

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26 of 30 NASA, ESA, and A. Riess (Johns Hopkins University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

A bright star

There are around 40 stars in open cluster Caldwell 89 (NGC 6087). There's a particularly bright star named S Normae shining out in this Hubble Space Telescope image.

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27 of 30 NASA, ESA, R. Griffiths (Carnegie Mellon University); S. Casertano (Space Telescope Science Institute), and J. MacKenty (Space Telescope Science Institute); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Oh beehive

Star cluster Caldwell 96 (NGC 2516) is also known as the Southern Beehive. NASA described it as a "loosely bound swarm of stars." It's bright and is best seen through a telescope.

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28 of 30 NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Coalsack Nebula

The Coalsack Nebula (also know as Caldwell 99) is quite a sight in this Hubble Space Telescope image newly processed for the telescope's 30th anniversary in 2020. This view shows just part of the nebula's edge.

"The object at the center of the image is a (much smaller) protoplanetary nebula," said NASA. "The protoplanetary nebula phase is a late stage in the life of a star in which it's ejected a shell of hydrogen gas and is quickly heating up."

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29 of 30 NASA, ESA, G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova), and A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Caldwell 107

Caldwell 107 is getting near to the end of the 109-object Caldwell collection of space sights for amateur astronomers. Hubble isn't an amateur, and it shows in this lovely view of the star cluster.

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30 of 30 NASA, ESA, and M. Reinhart (STScI); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Another cute cluster

The Caldwell 108 (NGC 4372) globular star cluster is one more sparkling entry among 30 newly processed images released by NASA in honor of the Hubble Space Telescope's 30th anniversary in 2020. That thin black line is just an artifact due to the way Hubble's camera system works.

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