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Edifice of gas and dust in the Cone Nebula


After more than three years of inactivity, and thanks to a new cryogenic refrigerator, the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) today debuts various breathtaking views of galaxies in several stages of development. The first NICMOS test images demonstrate its powerful new capability for making remarkable discoveries unique to space based near infrared astronomy. The NICMOS's penetrating vision sliced through the edge-on dusty disk of a galaxy, NGC 4013, to peer all the way into the galaxy's core. Astronomers were surprised to see what appears to be an edge-on ring of stars, 720 light-years across, encircling the nucleus. Though such star-rings are not uncommon in barred spiral galaxies, only NICMOS has the resolution to see the ring buried deep inside an edge-on galaxy.



Shifting its infrared vision to our stellar backyard, NICMOS peeled back the outer layers of the Cone Nebula (also photographed by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys) to see the underlying dusty "bedrock" in this stellar "pillar of creation."



Credit: NASA, The NICMOS Group (STScI, ESA) and The NICMOS Science Team (Univ. of Arizona)

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