NASA honors Hubble's 25th birthday with glorious star cluster photo

It's the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th birthday, and NASA has selected an official image to commemorate the day — it is of the Westerlund 2, a stellar cluster with in excess of 3,000 stars, a bright gas cloud called Gum 29, and a distance from Earth of about 20,000 light-years. The image is spectacular to behold, and is joined by a video in which users can take a 3D journey into the massive star cluster, seeing it somewhat in the way they would if they were flying through it themselves.

The video journey through the star cluster is from NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute and from the European Space Agency. It shows how spectacular of looks Hubble has given us of the universe around us, and how much it has contributed to the studying of the universe. In this case, Hubble's own Advanced Camera for Survey's captured visible light from Westerlund 2, and its Wide Field Camera 3 captured near-IR light.

With that latter camera, the telescope is able to image parts of the cluster that would otherwise be hidden in the dust. The resulting photograph — shown above — represents certain compositions of gas using different color shades, such as red for hydrogen. Baby stars are the red dots that can seen in the image, while the blue stars are said to be "mostly foreground stars".

The proliferation of baby stars (relative to the age of other stars, that is) makes it an area of particular interest to researchers, lending information about how stars and clusters of stars form. In addition to the image above, there are also 25 images assembled in a gallery to honor each year of the telescope's life.