Celebrate Hubble’s 24th Birthday by Flying Through the Pillars and Peaks of the Monkey Head Nebula

With the Hubble Space Telescope on board, Discovery begins its roll maneuver after liftoff from Kennedy Space Center on April 24, 1990. Credit: NASA.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 24 years ago last week, and this newly released video is a birthday present of sorts — to us!

Here you can fly into the Monkey Head Nebula (also known as NGC 2174), and this video showcases both visible and infrared light views of a collection of pillars along one edge of the nebula. The sequence begins with a view of the night sky near the constellation of Gemini and Orion, then zooms through a region of of pillars and peaks of dust.

Then comes a cross-fade transitions between Hubble’s visible and infrared light views, and it also takes you from a two-dimensional image to a three-dimensional sculpted model of the region. The camera then pulls back to reveal the landscape of evaporating peaks of gas and dust surrounded by stars.

The folks at the HubbleSite say that this visualization is intended to be a reasonable interpretation (not scientifically accurate) and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.