WASHINGTON -- A refurbished Hubble Space Telescope is showing all of us on Earth the sharpest photos yet of cosmic beauty, complete with heavenly glows.
NASA this week unveiled the first deep space photos taken by Hubble since its billion dollar repair mission last spring that included installing two new cameras.
SEE THE PHOTOS UP CLOSE IN THE ATTACHED PHOTO SLIDESHOW
"Hubble is back in action. Together, NASA and Hubble are opening new vistas on the universe," astronomer and frequent Hubble user Heidi Hammel said.
The images of galaxies and nebulas -- clouds of stellar gas and dust -- are sharper than previous photos taken of the same places by Hubble before its fifth and final upgrade.
Some have brilliant glows of light that give them halos that to some people can appear heavenly. And one of those resembles an eerie cosmic butterfly, but is really a stellar nursery or nebula not too far away
The butterfly photo shows details, such as gassy folds in what looks like butterfly wings, that the Hubble previously could not see, said Hubble senior scientist Dave Leckrone.
The glow in that photo and others is hot gas and dust pushed out from the stars, Leckrone said. In a way, it's like a lightbulb, with the star as the filament but the overall glow from the gas, he said.
The images, especially the butterfly, don't just show science, but can evoke a sense of spirituality, Leckrone said.
The most stunning photos involve the cosmos at its most violent: the birth and death of stars.
One shows the stellar nursery Carina Nebula, about 7,500 light years away.
A light year is nearly 6 trillion miles. The photo shows an eerie backlit reddish cloud being bombarded by radiation. When Hubble's new camera uses a different light spectrum, the cloud disappears and the infant stars appear. They are only about 100,000 years old with white jets shooting out.
Those jets are cosmic debris "being blasted out at very high velocity at what's going to be a planetary system," said University of Virginia astronomer Bob O'Connell.
Another image shows a compact cluster of thousands of stars -- a field of white glimmering with dots of blazing hot blue stars and cooler red ones.
All but one of the Hubble photos are from inside the Milky Way galaxy. The exception caught five spiral galaxies in a single image.
Soon Hubble will turn its new cameras to the furthest edges of the universe and take photos from soon after the Big Bang.
"Our view of the universe and our place within it will never be the same," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who as an astronaut piloted the space shuttle that put Hubble in orbit 19 years ago.
Copyright Associated Press