Westerlund 2 is a giant cluster of stars that contains some of the brightest, hottest and most massive stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. And, NASA is using it as the focal point for its official image to celebrate Hubble’s 25th anniversary.

westerlund 2 and Gum 29

“Hubble has completely transformed our view of the universe, revealing the true beauty and richness of the cosmos,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This vista of starry fireworks and glowing gas is a fitting image for our celebration of 25 years of amazing Hubble science.”

Westerlund 2 lies in a larger stellar nursery known as Gum 29, which is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth. See that cluster of bright red stars? That’s Westerlund 2. Researchers estimate there are 3,000 stars in the cluster.

NASA released a cool 3D visualization that dived through Gum 29 into the heart of Westerlund 2.

The small pillars of gas below and to the left of the star cluster are each a few light years tall.

Westerlund 2 offer astronomers a unique opportunity to study a star cluster in its early stages.

NASA used Hubble’s near-infrared Wide Field Camera 3 to look through the gas and dust of Gum 29 to reveal the extraordinary detail of Westerlund 2.

Here’s a couple more images of Gum 29 and Westerlund 2.

westerlund 2 close up

westerlund 2 cluster

gas pillar near westerlund 2

The Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate 25 years in space tomorrow. It launched on April 24, 1990. Check out the 1990 launch in the video below (fast-forward to 0:50 for the launch).

Image Credits: NASA

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