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> Hubble Is Back in Business

SEPT. 2009

Hubble Is Back in Business

Montage of four new images from Hubble
ENLARGE

A sample of
Hubble's newest:

Images from Wide Field
Camera 3

The upgraded Hubble Space Telescope has reopened its eye on the universe, producing several breathtaking images.

Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful pictures of a clash between several galaxies, a “butterfly” nebula, a densely packed star cluster, and an eerie, dense pillar of gas and dust where new stars are being born. The first snapshots from the refurbished Hubble showcase the telescope’s new vision.

Astronauts make servicing mission
a success

The telescope took a break from observing the universe after a successful servicing mission ("SM4") in May 2009. During the break, NASA engineers and scientists put the telescope and its instruments through rigorous tests to ensure everything was working properly.

NASA astronauts visited the telescope for the final time in May to upgrade and repair the 19-year-old Earth-orbiting observatory. During five grueling spacewalks, the astronauts completed a long list of activities, including adding two new science instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. They also replaced aging gyroscopes and batteries and an ailing science data computer.

Upgrades and repairs enhance
Hubble’s vision

Butterfly nebula
ENLARGE

Nebula:
A butterfly emerges from stellar death

Butterfly nebula
ENLARGE

Galactic wreckage:
A famous set of clashing galaxies

The Wide Field Camera 3 will greatly improve Hubble's ability to observe distant objects, such as galaxies, as well as planets in our solar system. It will detect light ranging from ultraviolet, to visible, to near-infrared.

The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph is the most powerful spectrograph ever sent to space. The instrument will not snap the beautiful images of the universe for which Hubble is famous. Its job is to separate light into its component wavelengths, which will yield information about the composition and temperature of distant galaxies, stars, and planets.

During the May servicing mission, the astronauts also revived two older science instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, which were not designed to be repaired in space. The upgrades and repairs will extend Hubble's life through the next decade.

The best is yet to come

Center of Omega Centauri globular cluster
ENLARGE

Stars galore:
The crowded core of a globular cluster

Center of Omega Centauri globular cluster
ENLARGE

Stars being born:
Stellar nursery in an eerie pillar structure

Now that Hubble is back in business, scientists will use the landmark observatory to observe a broad range of celestial targets. Astronomers, for example, have ambitious plans to use Hubble to make the deepest-ever portrait of the universe in near-infrared light. The resulting picture may reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Other observations include taking a census of Kuiper Belt objects — icy comets residing at the fringe of our solar system, observing the birth of planets around other stars, and probing the composition and structure of the atmospheres of other worlds.

 

The Star Witness

brings you "tele-scoops" from the Hubble Space Telescope