Red Spider Nebula in Sagittarius

Now that James Webb has arrived, the latest generation space telescope capable of taking spectacular photos, some may think that the dear old Hubble he will retire. But no: the dean of space telescopes will continue to work, and even the old photos he took can be analyzed in search of elements that help us understand the space around us.


As for example the tongue of fire identified in the Nebula Red Spider.

A Nebula with a particular shape

The Hubble Space Telescope photographed the Red Spider Nebula, which actually resembles a stylized arachnid with its legs, and for a number of factors such as composition, heat and age it is a bright red.

Our Red Spider is located about 3000 light years from Earth, in the constellation of Sagittarius. It is a two-lobed nebula, that is, with two continuous flows of plasma that come out of the two poles of what remains of a star. The nebula is, in fact, the final stage in the life of a low-mass star. In this case it comes from one of the hottest stars ever observed by a space telescope. Its mighty winds produce waves up to 100 billion kilometers high.

The tongue of fire of the Red Spider

This question of winds produced by our arachnid-shaped nebula is very fascinating. The waves that are produced and spread around the celestial object are caused by shocks at supersonic speed, which are typical of the final phase of a star’s life: the gas that forms and surrounds it is compressed and heated, in front of the lobes that they quickly expand outwards. It happens with the smallest stars, those between 0.08 and 0.5 solar masses.

In this collision some atoms are captured, which emit the spectacular radiation that can be seen in the center of the photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and which looks like a fire tongue.

The Hubble Discoveries

HubbleJames Webb’s “dad”, is no stranger to sensational imagery or important discoveries about the composition and formation of the segment of the universe that surrounds us.

In the sky since 1990, this space telescope has given a breakthrough in the analysis of the mysterious dark matter, allowing astronomers to reproduce its distribution on a large scale. Hubble also allowed the observation of proto-planetary disks – the first phase of the formation of planets – and of exoplanets, that is, those that are outside the Solar System: none were known in 1990, today 5,000 have been identified.

Thanks to Hubble, scientists have also been able to study gamma-ray bursts, small cosmic explosions that reached a record in 2022. Thanks to Hubble we now also know the four Moons of Pluto: Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx. And then, last but not least, there are the black holeson which we would have remained almost blind without the help of the space telescope: Hubble has found an alternative method to confirm these celestial objects that cannot be seen because they also capture light, namely by measuring the velocity of gas and stars around a place where it was suspected there might be a black hole.

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About Alex Marcell

He likes dogs, pizza and popcorn. Already a fanboy of Nintendo and Sony, but today throws anything. He has collaborated on sites and magazines such as GameBlast, Nintendo World, Hero and Portal Pop, but today is dedicated exclusively to Spark Chronicles.

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