The Advent of Hubble

By Phil Plait | December 1, 2009 12:30 pm

The Big Picture website is once again doing a Hubble Advent calendar: releasing a new picture from the great observatory once each day this month until Christmas. It’s a clever idea, and should get everyone clicking over there first thing to see what beauty he has chosen every day. His first choice: a butterfly-shaped planetary nebula image taken late last year. If he keeps this up, you’ll have two dozen gorgeous shots to drool over!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures

Comments (16)


    I just can’t believe it’s that bloody time of year already! 😐


    Yup. Tis the season for Christmas to be shoved into your face at every turn. I just wrote a long, passionate blog post about this very subject (shameless plug). At least with the Hubble Advent calendar, though, we get some nice Hubble images that can be enjoyed separate from any tree-and-tinsel holiday.

  3. At this time of year, I turn green, and my heart gets three sizes too small! 😛

    Okay, I just wish people Happy Saturnalia and just keep going.

  4. Can I be completely honest?

    I’d rather have one from Cassini. I work in phone tech support, so I go on “autopilot” a lot and just browse the raw images. I literally spent 5 hours today looking at the Titan pictures. Who needs a god when you have that raw beauty?

  5. Eric

    Oh, Phil, the irony of you of all people posting this messge of an advent calendar for the “Holiday Season.”

    Gee, which holiday would that be? What’s the ONLY religion on this planet which includes advent calendars to count down the celebration of the birth of their savior?

    I’m an athiest, but folks who cannot admit that the holiday is called “Christmas” truely disgust me.

    The Hubble Advent Calendar does not end on Kwanzaa, it does not end with Hannukah, it does not even end on the equinox. Personally, I enjoy throwing the seasonal greeting into the face of those who insist upon displaying their politically-correct hubris.


  6. Planetary nebulae have to be my favorite deep sky objects, ever since I had my first glimpse of the Dumbbell nebula way back in about 1977.

    I still recall the whoop I let out when I finally spotted the Eskimo nebula. I’m sure the neighbors thought some weirdo was making trouble in the orchard again.

    Sigh….good times.

    Happy Holidays! (and a 😛 to Eric, who gets “truely” disgusted way too easily.)

  7. Curt

    To Eric, from a fellow atheist (agnostic atheist, to be more precise),

    Shouldn’t folks be allowed to use whatever phrase they choose during the holiday season (which, in the U.S. is generally considered to begin with Thanksgiving and end after New Year’s Day)? Demanding that one particular phrase be used over all others doesn’t seem to be in the Christmas spirit.

  8. I don’t know the scale of the first pic of the planetary nebula – whether it’s light-years or light-hours across – but, could those “fingers” in the centre part be evaporating planets? They look very similar to the “pillars of creation” from the Eagle Nebula, which are protostellar dust clouds being blown away in streamers by the radiation from hot young stars.

  9. StevoR

    Awesome idea. 8)

    I already have a couple of astronomy calendars ready to go up on my wall for 2010 and expect to get at least one more. But I may have to add this to the list anyhow although I may be running out of wallspace. I cna never be surrounded by enough Hubble or astronomy images! 😉

    After the year is out my calendars always get cut up to make posters too rather than ditched so I can enjoy the marvellous pictures contained therein for years .. the very best ones get laminated; the worst (or just those not protected in time and at low – enough levels on the pinboard) sadly have a tendency to fall to the claws of my felis domesticus Zosma. (Named after Delta Leonis see : .)

    Thanks BA. :-)

  10. Flying sardines

    @ Eric # 5 : Merry Christmas & happy new year to you too! Really. :-)

    I think the spirit of the season is supposed to be showing “joy & goodwill towards *all* folks” right?

    The best aspect of this time of year, the finer angels and nobler side of it then is surely to include and share that joy with *everyone* even those who aren’t like us – whether they are Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or Atheist or Agnostic or even the Christmas-hating! 😉

    If you don’t want it to be political, don’t make it political. No one is preventing you doing your thing and enjoying Christmas in your own way – at least I honestly do not think so.

    Me, I’m going to celebrate with family lunch and relaxing and looking through the odd good book – or calendar.

    While I’m personally agnostic verging on atheist if someone says “merry Christmas” to me then I’ll gladly say (& verily mean) “Merry Christmas” back. If someone says to me “Happy Holidays” or “happy solstice” or even “happy Hannukkah” (spelling?) or “Eid el Fitr” (spelling again?) or whatever then I’ll return their greeting in as cheerful a manner as its given. Its the sentiment of wishing others well that matters to me not the precise nature of their beliefs.

    Whatever we ‘re celebrating or even not – is it that hard to respect and allow people to just do so their own way?

    So may I respectfully suggest you have some nice warm mince pies, an egg-nog or two (alcoholic or not as you please and as best suits your temper) and just mellow out a little please? 😉

  11. Joe


    Hubris: the pride associated with arrogance; pride considered as sin.

    Did you know the meaning of that word before you used it in your post? Are you sure you’re an atheist? And if so, why would you care what he refers to one fantasy-based institution’s holiday as?

    Happy holidays to you sir and to everyone else as well – regardless of what mythology you may or may not adhere to.

    That aside, the calander is a cool idea.

  12. Eric

    I didn’t start the politics here…TechyDad did, in the second post. I would describe what he wrote as prideful arrogance.

    Beyond that, I see no need for the secular movement to remove all vestiges of the word Christmas, which is exactly what NASA does on their advent calendar website. Their calendar ends on December 25th…please remind me again what day that is? Oh, that’s right…it’s “Holidays.” If folks are going to shove that word in my face, I’m going to shove right back. If I were Jewish, I think I might be a bit miffed being told that an advent calendar is somehow acknowledging my beliefs…and just imagine how Muslims would react.

    I’m guessing for 90% of the people reading Phil’s blog that Christmas is the only day they actually celebrate during the season. Why can’t they all admit it? Sure, if you know somebody who celebrates another holiday, pass on a personal greeting to them.

    By the way, Flying sardines, Eid ul-Fitr was in September this year. See where your political correctness gets you? Hope you had a Happy Submition to Allah day! I suppose it’s better than Eid ul-Adah…celebrating Abraham’s sacrfice of his son to Allah. Nice warm-fuzzy holidays those are.

    Personally, I celebrate Christmas by indulging in cookies, commercialization, gathering with family, and allowing my now five year-old son to believe in Santa Claus…knowing that the eventual and painful discovery of the truth will set him up to doubt the existence of all mythical beings.

    The problem with the “Happy Holidays” crowd is that they just don’t think. It’s not inclusive of all faiths, it is specifically exclusive of just one faith. I see it as intolerant..and those who defend it usually do so with plenty of hubris. (sic)

    So here’s a toast of rum and eggnog…Merry Christmas! And a Happy Solstice! I celebrate that one too…but nor am I going to demean that day with a generic reference.

  13. Joe

    Eric, you are nuts. Also, I imagine those 90% you mentioned also celebrate thanksgiving and new years. They’re part of the “Holidays” (plural).

  14. This “bloody” time of the year is the best time for naked-eye viewing of the Pleiades. So far, that and two whole successful sightings of Mercury are the entirety of my direct astronomical accomplishments. Don’t knock ’em….

  15. lubeivngmmee

    I can’t think of a more appropriate time and place to begin a good piece of science literature… snow on the ground… my faithful dog at my feet, bathed in the warmth of the yule time log in the fireplace.

    I am looking forward to visiting this forum regularly.

  16. Hoku Sai

    Every person has their own bent, it is only that some of us are more bent than others, except for me and thee of course. Blessings on y’all!
    What% of Astronomers are athiests?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar