Last week we looked back at some of the greatest images and discoveries produced by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, the workhorse optical camera that will be replaced with the new and improved WFPC3 during the Hubble servicing mission this week. Now, in tribute to the legacy of WFPC2, the telescope’s science team has released this image as the camera’s final “pretty picture,” a planetary nebula is known as Kohoutek 4-55 (or K 4-55). This image is the last hurrah for the camera that has provided outstanding science and spectacular images of the cosmos.
K 4-55 is nearly 4,600 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It is one of a series of planetary nebulae that were named after their discoverer, Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek. A planetary nebula contains the outer layers of a red giant star that were expelled into interstellar space when the star was in the late stages of its life. Ultraviolet radiation emitted from the remaining hot core of the star ionizes the ejected gas shells, causing them to glow.
In the specific case of K 4-55, a bright inner ring is surrounded by a bipolar structure. The entire system is then surrounded by a faint red halo, seen in the emission by nitrogen gas. This multi-shell structure is fairly uncommon in planetary nebulae.
The colors represent the makeup of the various emission clouds in the nebula: red represents nitrogen, green represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen.
This Hubble image was taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on May 4, 2009.
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The scientific and inspirational legacy of the camera will be felt by astronomers and the public alike, for as long as the story of the Hubble Space Telescope is told.
4 Replies to “Final Pretty Picture for Hubble Camera”
Interestingly, at the Sunday 3pm EDT WFPC 2 NASA news conference, one astronomer on the panel noted that the actual ‘last’ picture to be taken by the camera will come in a couple days. The target ?: nearby starburst galaxy IC 5152. Oh well, this makes a nice formal ‘last’ color image (of a “new” object, for HST, at that) and there are already Hubble pics of IC 5152. That sure is a wicked looking planetary nebula.!
I watched the launch this morning.. NICE!
The moderator on the Science Channel was a distraction at best…. AND they wasted camera views during ascent… dzzzz.
I saw the launch from north Tampa, Florida, in a bright, blue sky. A beautiful trail of orange & white smoke. GO ATLANTIS! @ Aqua, you might want to check out NASA TV on your cable, if available, for most excellent mission coverage!
Anyone have an explanation for the unusual shape of this nebula?
My favorite space craft has always been the Saturn V / Apollo program. I still get a thrill watching footage of a Saturn V launch. I had the privilege of seeing Apollo 11 when she was on the pad just a few days before she flew. In those days before terrorism concerns, the tour bus drove right up to the pad. She was beautiful. That said, Shuttle launches are very impressive in a different way. I also had the privilege of being in the senior VIP viewing stands for STS-3. Since the Challenger disaster, no one can be that close anymore. Whereas the Saturn V evidenced both majesty and power as she rose into the sky, the Shuttle was like a Ferrari getting out of Dodge in a big hurry. If you are a big space program fan and you haven’t seen a live launch yet, I strongly urge you to get to Florida for a launch before the Shuttle stops flying. There is nothing like a live launch and it is worth every dime and minute that it costs you.
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