An asteroid crept into the picture as Hubble took an image of the Crab Nebula and its green and yellow patterns. To take an image of an area the size of a nebula, Hubble has to use the long exposure technique, which can see other astronomical objects moving through the image. In this instance, Hubble focused on the Crab Nebula, which is 6,500 light-years from Earth, and saw an asteroid streaking across the sky.
With the Crab Nebula being 10 light-years across, the asteroid could be seen travelling a staggering 94,607,304,725,800 kilometres.
The asteroid was first spotted by amateur astronomer Melina Thévenot from Germany who was volunteering for the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Hubble Asteroid Hunter project.
Earlier this year, the ESA opened up thousands of images to the public, allowing them to search galleries for hidden space rocks missed by the ESA.
The project is already paying dividends, with Ms Thévenot spotting the asteroid leaving a stunning streak of light through the Crab Nebula, with the original image taken way back in 2005.
The ESA said: “Hubble Asteroid Hunter was a citizen science project to identify serendipitous observations of asteroids in Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images.
“The HST data archive can hide unexpected treasures, such as traces of asteroids. These discoveries are highly valuable for scientists studying minor solar system bodies.
“For example, identifying asteroids in the images and marking the positions of their trails allows for valuable updates in the IAU Minor Planet Center and improved characterisation of the objects.”
The Crab Nebula is a remnant of a supernova which was first observed in 1054 AD when Chinese astronomers noticed a new dot in the sky.
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The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of the universe.
And the JWST has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light years away.
One of the major differences between Hubble and JWST will be how far back in time it will be able to see.
Hubble can see far into space and is essentially looking back in time as light travels to the craft.
Through Hubble, experts have been able to view the formation of the first galaxies, about one billion years after the Big Bang.
However, as JWST is much more powerful, it will be able to see just 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form.