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Breathtaking Carina Nebula PHOTO Marks Hubble Telescope's 20th Anniversary

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It's the 20th anniversary of NASA's Hubble telescope and an incredible photo released in honor of the telescope proves that Hubble may be aging, but it's still got it--and how.

This new image of the Carina Nebula shows with stunning clarity a gaseous dust column over 3 light years tall.

NASA says of the stunning image,

This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination. The NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.

Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionized gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation much like a towering butte in Utah's Monument Valley withstands erosion by water and wind.

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

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