The hubble has turned 25, and to celebrate, NASA has released this breathtaking animation of what it would be like to fly about 20,000 lightyears to Westerlund 2, which hosts about 3000 stars.
Before you watch this, consider that the video takes you on a ‘short’ journey which -in real time- would take you around 20,000 light years to complete. For all you non ‘space-nerds’ sitting there with tinfoil on your head, that means if you’re travelling at the speed of light in some futuristic spaceship, the short journey in this video would take about 20,000 years to complete.
Obviously we can travel at nowhere near light speed (yet) so this small video in realistic terms would take hundreds of thousands of years to complete.
It really makes you appreciate just how important the hubble is, and just how big space really is.
Also, when you consider the above, it also means that what we’re observing is very, very old- some of those stars that you’re seeing may not even exist anymore, as light takes ‘so long’ to get to us.
So, how does the Hubble see ‘back in time’?
Every time we look up, or through the amazing lenses of the Hubble, the light we’re seeing from space is very, very old indeed and that is because light takes time to reach us.
Light may be the fastest thing in the universe that we know of, but that still takes time to travel great distances. This is commonly measured in lightyears (the distance light travels in one year).
The Hubble, with it’s amazing lenses, is able to zoom in great distances and therefore is able to see even further back in time- the more you can zoom in, the further back in time you can observe.
The hubble’s reign has been long and fruitful, but is going to be rivaled in 2018 when the James Webb Space Telescope gets launched.
We’re looking forward to what the Hubble-Webb partnership will unveil!