NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has broken boundaries of space exploration never thought possible. Outfitted with a brand new Wide Field Camera 3 in May, the 19-year-old telescope has snapped images from the far corners of the known universe, some explored for the first time. Here, we present our favorite Hubble images released in 2009.
What may look like a dainty butterfly is actually NGC 6302, a dying star casting off ferocious explosions of gas. The temperature of gaseous mixture reaches upwards of 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and is spreading out at more than 600,000 miles per hour.
Jet in the Carina Nebula
These enormous pillars of gas and dust that look like billowing storm clouds are actually the result of stars being born. Located in one of the brightest parts of Milky Way, NGC 3372 -- or Carina Nebula -- is a treasure chest full of young stars.
Center of the Milky Way
This sweeping panoramic image is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Milky Way's galactic core. Some of the objects seen here are 20 times the size of our solar system. Hubble had to make 144 orbits to capture this composite.
Star Cluster Omega Centauri
This spectacular panoramic image of an assortment of colorful cosmic objects shows about 100,000 stars in the giant cluster Omega Centauri. This photo actually shows a very small region of the cluster. Omega Centauri holds nearly 10 million stars as a whole.
Also known as M42, the wispy Orion Nebula is a mass of glowing gas surrounding about 3,000 young stars at the edge of an immense molecular cloud.
Known as the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is filled with hundreds of both young and ancient star clusters, as well as hundreds of thousands of individual stars -- mostly supergiants. In this image, Hubble captured the rapid rate of star birth on the edges of the dark dust lanes.
It can be difficult to make out all five, but this galactic grouping makes up Stephan's Quintet, or Hickson Compact Group 92. NGC 7319, top right, has distinctive spiral arms. Continuing clockwise, the next galaxy looks like it has two cores, but it's actually two galaxies: NGC 7318A and NGC 7318B. The dwarf galaxy NGC 7320 appears in a blue swirling mass below, and finally, NGC 7317 is an elliptical galaxy in the bottom right.
Ultra Deep Field
Scientists believe this "stretched" image shows some of the universe's oldest galaxies -- ones that may be the first galaxies from the "dark ages" shortly after the Big Bang, The Ultra Deep Field, which Hubble first captured five years ago, is estimated to hold over 10,000 galaxies.
Grand-Star Grouping, R136
A cluster of icy-blue stars swathed in soft, glowing clouds paints a festive picture in one of Hubble's most recent images. R136, a young stellar grouping, is only a few million years-old and sits in the 30 Doradus Nebula. Several of the stars are over 100 times larger than the sun.