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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Hubble peers at celestial bubble
The gas bubble is caused by a hurricane of particles from a nearby star

The Hubble Space Telescope has peered inside a bubble of interstellar gas and dust that is being inflated by a hurricane of particles emitted from a young star.

This nearby star, which has no name, is losing 100 million times more mass per second than our own Sun, generating a torrent of speeding particles.

Because the star is surrounded by an envelope of gas the particle train, or stellar wind, collides with the gas.

This pushes it out forming a bubble of the type seen in the Hubble image.

The nebula N44F is one of a handful of known interstellar bubbles. In the past similar structures have been observed around massive stars and also around clusters of stars, where they are called super bubbles.

N44F is part of the larger N44 complex, which contains one of these super-bubbles.

Giant fingers

This parent complex is around 1,000 light-years across and several star-forming regions, including N44F, are found along the rim of its central super-bubble.

The interior wall of the gaseous cavity is lined with finger-like columns of cool dust and gas that are four to eight light-years high.

Similar columns make up the Pillars of Creation in a famous Hubble image of the much closer Eagle Nebula.

They are created by ultraviolet radiation from the star and point in the direction of the energy flow.

The image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, using filters that isolate light emitted by sulphur.

On Wednesday, Nasa chief Sean O'Keefe said the space agency would try to send a robot servicing mission to save Hubble.

Nasa had previously looked at options for de-orbiting the telescope and dumping it in the sea.

The robot repair mission could add another five years to the telescope's life, which will expire in 2008 without help.

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