The World’s First Space Telescope


50 years ago, astronomers launched the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, whose descendants include the Hubble, Spitzer and James Webb telescopes

The World's First Space Telescope
Credit: NASA

In July 1958, an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison named Arthur “Art” Code received a telegram from the fledgling Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The agency wanted to know what he and his colleagues would do if given the opportunity to launch into Earth’s orbit an instrument weighing up to 100 pounds.

Code, newly-minted director of the University’s Washburn Observatory, had something in mind. His department was already well known for pioneering a technique for measuring the light emitted by celestial objects, called photoelectric photometry, and Code had joined the university with the intent of adapting it to the burgeoning field of space astronomy.

He founded the Space Astronomy Laboratory at UW–Madison and, with his colleagues, proposed to launch a small telescope equipped with a photoelectric photometer, designed to measure the ultraviolet (UV) energy output of stars—a task impossible from Earth’s surface. Fifty years ago, on December 7, 1968, that idea culminated in NASA’s launch of the first successful space-based observatory: the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, or OAO-2.

With it was born the era of America’s Great Observatories, bearing the Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra and Compton space telescopes, a time during which our understanding of the universe repeatedly deepened and transformed. Today, dwindling political appetite and lean funding threaten our progress. Contemporary projects like the James Webb Space Telescope flounder, and federal budgets omit promising projects like the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

In celebrating the half century since OAO-2’s launch, we are reminded that major scientific achievements like it become part of the public trust, and to make good on the public trust, we must repay our debt to history by investing in our future. Advances like those made by Hubble are possible only through sustained, publicly-funded research.

These first investments originated in the late 1950s, during the space race between the U.S. the USSR. They led to economic gains in the private sector, technological and scientific innovations, and the birth of new fields of exploration.

Astronomer Lyman Spitzer, considered the father of the Hubble Space Telescope, first posited the idea of space-based observing seriously in a 1946 RAND Corporation study. By leaving Earth’s atmosphere, he argued, astronomers could point telescopes at and follow nearly anything in the sky, from comets to galaxy clusters, and measure light in a broader range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When Code pitched Wisconsin’s idea to the Space Board, the result was NASA funding to create part of the scientific payload for OAO. The agency went to work planning a spacecraft that could support these astronomical instruments. The Cook Electric Company in Chicago and Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in New York won contracts to help pull it off.

The payload, named the Wisconsin Experiment Package (WEP), bundled five telescopes equipped with photoelectric photometers and two scanning spectrophotometers, all with UV capabilities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a package of X-ray and gamma detectors.

Scientists and engineers had to make the instruments on OAO both programmable and capable of operating autonomously between ground contacts. Because repairs were impossible once in orbit, they designed redundant systems and operating modes. Scientists also had to innovate systems for handling complex observations, transmitting data to Earth digitally (still a novelty in those days), and for processing data before they landed in the hands of astronomers.

The first effort, OAO-1, suffered a fatal power failure after launch in 1966, and the scientific instruments were never turned on. But NASA reinvested, and OAO-2 launched with a new WEP from Wisconsin, and this time a complementary instrument from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, called Celescope, that used television camera technology to produce images of celestial objects emitting UV light. Expected to operate just one year, OAO-2 continued to make observations for four years.

 

Numerous “guest” astronomers received access to the instruments during the extended mission. Such collaborations ultimately led to the creation of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which Code helped organize as acting director in 1981.

And the data yielded many scientific firsts, including a modern understanding of stellar physics, surprise insights into stellar explosions called novae, and exploration of a comet that had far-reaching implications for theories of planet formation and evolution.

To be responsible beneficiaries of such insights, we must remember that just as we are yesterday’s future, the firsts of tomorrow depend on today. We honor that public trust only by continuing to fund James Webb, WFIRST, and other projects not yet conceived.

In the forward of a 1971 volume publishing OAO-2’s scientific results, NASA’s Chief of Astronomy Nancy G. Roman wrote: “The performance of this satellite has completely vindicated the early planners and has rewarded … the entire astronomical community with many exciting new discoveries and much important data to aid in the unravelling of the secrets of the stars.”

Let’s keep unraveling these stellar secrets.

NASA Is Testing the Telescope That Will Revolutionize Our View of the Cosmos


IN BRIEF

The James Webb Space Telescope, the highly anticipated successor of Hubble, recently successfully completed cryogenic vacuum testing. This round of testing is one of the last major milestones before the telescope is finally launched.

TELESCOPE TESTING

In 2017, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) successfully completed cryogenic vacuum testing that lasted for over 100 days, solidifying the instrument’s capabilities and potential as a full observatory. In a NASA media briefing on January 10, officials at the Johnson Space Center in Houston discussed these efforts and the magnitude of this successful testing. The “world’s largest space freezer,” as described by Mark Voyton, Webb telescope Optical Telescope Element and Integrated Science Instrument Module (OTIS) manager at Goddard, allowed the team to successfully test the instrument and its pieces at the extreme temperatures it will endure in its missions.

Additionally, this testing showed that all mirrors and instrument models were aligned, with the primary mirror’s 18 segments all operating as one monolithic mirror. The tests also allowed NASA to exercise operations as they would occur in orbit, confirm that the integrated fine guiding system can track a star through the optical system, and ensure that the telescope could maintain correct observatory pointing. This laundry list of successful testing puts the JWST right on schedule to move forward and open our eyes to previously unseen corners of the universe.

The Webb testing was completed in Chamber A, a thermal-vacuum test facility that was first made famous in testing the Apollo spacecraft. While the Apollo tests were completed with both extreme heat and cold in mind, the chamber was heavily modified for the JWST. The Apollo craft were tested at temperatures as low as 100 Kelvin, but with these modifications, testing commenced at temperatures as low as 40 Kelvin with no high-temperature testing.

The success of this testing is not only a significant milestone for the James Webb Space Telescope and its highly-anticipated 2019 launch; it’s also a testament to the human spirit. This cryogenic testing occurred 24/7 throughout Hurricane Harvey, uninterrupted, as its international teams worked together in a collaborative effort.

MOVING FORWARD

After the success of this testing, the JWST will be transported for integration into a complete observatory and to undergo final environmental testing before traveling to its launch site. While there was a delay that pushed the launch from 2018 to 2019, the telescope is currently right on track to successfully make its launch window.

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope observing the cosmos.
Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope observing the cosmos. 

The capabilities of the JWST will far surpass anything that has been created before. This mammoth telescope, described by Voyton as “the world’s most magnificent time machine,” proved a piece of this capability in testing: it detected, with all four instruments, the light of a simulated star for the first time. The fine guidance subsystem was successful in not only generating the position of the light, but also in tracking its movement. This was a first in testing, and it shows the remarkable applications that this telescope will have.

Because it is an infrared telescope, as opposed to a visual light telescope like Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope requires a cold environment such as the one it was tested in. This will allow it to observe light from some of the earliest moments of the universe. Additionally, it will give us clarity in viewing exoplanets that we’ve only before dreamed of, closely observing Earth-like planets that could hold the promise of solidifying the existence of extraterrestrial life.

It hasn’t even left Earth yet, but this phenomenal instrument continues to inspire.

More Than 30 Billion Light-Years Away, Hubble Captures the Most Distant Galaxy Ever Found


IN BRIEF

A new image taken using the Hubble Space Telescope has given us an image of the farthest galaxy ever imaged. More than 30 billion light-years away, we see it as it was 13.4 billion years in the past.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE

While much has been said about the planned successors to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (WFIRST and the James Webb), Hubble has shown that it can still perform admirably. In fact, a recent announcement has just added another notch to the list of Hubble’s achievements.

An international team of astronomers has used the space telescope to shatter the cosmic distance record by measuring the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe. This bright, infant galaxy, named GN-z11, is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past (just 400 million years after the Big Bang).

“We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three percent of its current age,” explained principal investigator Pascal Oesch.

 Astronomers are trying to focus on the first galaxies that formed in the universe and, with this discovery, they are closing in on them. The observations brought astronomers to a realm of galaxies that was previously thought to be reachable only with NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
LOOKING BACK IN TIME

Scientists measure astronomical distances by determining the “redshift” of a galaxy, which is a result of the expansion of the universe. To break this down a bit, redshift is a result of light being stretched to longer (and consequently redder) wavelengths as space expands as the light travels to our telescope. By measuring this redshift, we are able to obtain a precise measure of where the light traveled from.

The previous galaxy that was a record holder had a redshift of 8.68, which means we see it as it was some 13.2 billion years in the past. GN-z11, in comparison, has a redshift of 11.1, which puts it at the aforementioned 13.4 billion years and 200 million years closer to the Big Bang. The researchers estimate that the record could only be surpassed with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Notably, scientists at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austinpreviously found galaxy z8_GND_5296, which is a staggering 30 billion light-years away. Thanks to the expansions of the universe, GN-z11 is (at the present time) even more distant than this.

SO, WHAT’S THE GALAXY LIKE?

Even though it is far away, we still know a lot about it (relatively speaking).

The imaging of GN-z11 reveals it is 25 times smaller than our galaxy and has one percent of our galaxy’s mass in stars. It is growing fast, forming stars at a rate 20 times greater than our galaxy. This is part of the reason why the galaxy is unexpectedly bright when imaged.

The results also provide new clues about the nature of the very early universe, but while these results are exciting, it is but a tantalizing preview of the observations that the James Webb Space Telescope could offer after it is launched into space in 2018.

GN-z11 Farthest Galaxy
The Galaxy GN-z11 as imaged by the researchers. Credit: NASA

Hubble has photographed a disturbingly beautiful galaxy that acts as a huge laser


To send 2016 off properly, Hubble has captured the most detailed image to date of the mysterious galaxy IRAS 16399-0937, which acts as a giant, astronomical laser.

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But it’s not your standard laser. Instead of blasting out visible light, the galaxy pumps out an intense and constant stream of microwave radiation. “This galaxy has a far more exciting and futuristic classification than most – it hosts a megamaser,” explains NASA (microwave + laser = maser).

Masers are found throughout the Universe, wherever molecular clouds of dust amplify any microwave radiation that passes through, enhancing and focussing the amount that’s emitted on the other side.

There are even some masers in our own galaxy, but megamaser IRAS 16399-0937 is a lot brighter – 100 million times brighter, to be specific, and almost the entire galaxy acts as a maser, rather than just one or two molecular clouds.

 

Although scientists have long known about the galaxy, which is located 370 million light-years away from Earth, this is the most detailed look at its internal structure to date. And don’t be fooled by how serene the image above looks, in reality, IRAS 16399-0937 is actually a galaxy in turmoil.

The image was taken across a range of wavelengths by two of Hubble’s instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys, and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, and it reveals that the galaxy actually has a double nucleus.

That means that the galaxy formed as a result of two galaxies smashing into each other, and those two cores are still in the process of merging.

You can see these two bright cores glowing orange in the image above. And although the whole system looks pretty tight, the two cores sit more than 11,000 light-years apart. For perspective, the closest neighbouring star to Earth is 4.3 light-years away.

The two galactic cores also appear to be very different. The northern one has been named IRAS 16399N, and the southern core is IRAS 16399S. While IRAS 16399S appears to be a hugely active starburst region, with new stars being born at an enormous rate, the northern core is pretty much the opposite, with just a huge field of weakly-ionised neutral gas.

But IRAS 16399N does contain something noteworthy – the Hubble image reveals an enormous black hole that’s 100 million times the mass of the Sun.

If you want a little perspective on just how big that is, check out the video below, and prepare to have your mind crushed.

watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/QgNDao7m41M

 

Hubble has spotted mysterious balls of plasma shooting from a star.


NASA’s Hubble space telescope has detected plasma balls roughly twice the size of Mars being ejected near a dying star at speeds so rapid, it would take them only 30 minutes to travel from Earth to the Moon.

This mysterious ‘cannon fire’ has been detected in the region once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years, but this is the first time it’s ever been seen in action, and researchers think they might finally know where it’s coming from.

 Plasma is super-hot ionised gas, and the reason these blasts are so confusing for astronomers is that there’s no way they can be coming from the dying star they originate near.

The star in question, called V Hydrae, is a bloated red giant that’s 1,200 light-years away, and it’s dying. It’s already shed at least half of its mass into space in its final death throes, and is now exhausting the rest of its nuclear fuel as it burns out – hardly a likely source of super hot, giant blobs of charged gas.

But the new Hubble data provide researchers with some insight into the strange phenomenon, and it turns out that these plasma cannonballs might explain another space mystery – planetary nebulae.

Planetary nebulae aren’t like regular nebula, which are the birthplace of stars. Instead, they’re swirling rings of glowing gas that are expelled by dead or dying stars. Each one is unique, but no one has been able to explain how they form.

Now NASA researchers suggest that the cannonballs may play a key role.

“We knew this object had a high-speed outflow from previous data, but this is the first time we are seeing this process in action,” said lead researcher Raghvendra Sahai, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

 

“We suggest that these gaseous blobs produced during this late phase of a star’s life help make the structures seen in planetary nebulae.”

To figure this out, the team pointed the Hubble telescope at V Hydrae over an 11-year period, between 2002 and 2013.

This allowed them to capture the latest cannonball eruption back in 2011, using spectroscopy imaging to reveal information on the plasma’s velocity, temperature, location, and motion.

They were able to show a whole string of the huge plasma balls erupting from the region, each with a temperature of more than 9,400 degrees Celsius (17,000 degrees Fahrenheit) – almost twice as hot as the surface of the Sun.

While the team monitored these news cannonballs, they also mapped the distribution of old plasma blobs fired out as long ago as 1986, some of which were already 60 billion km  (37 billion miles) away from V Hydrae.

These plasma balls cool down and expand the further they get until they’re no longer detectable by Hubble.

So where are they coming from? Based on all this new data, the NASA team modelled several scenarios, and the one that made the most sense is that the cannonballs are being launched by an unseen companion star that orbits close to V Hydrae every 8.5 years, but isn’t seen by Hubble.

The model suggests that as the companion star enters V Hydrae’s outer atmosphere, it gobbles up all the material that V Hydrae is shedding in its death throes, and this material then settles around the companion star as an accretion disk that shoots out balls of plasma.

The researchers have recreated what that would look like below. Step 1 is the two stars orbiting each other. Step 2 shows the companion star orbiting into the red giant’s bloated  atmosphere and sucking up its material into an accretion disk.

In steps 3 and 4, blobs of hot plasma are being ejected from this accretion disk. This happens every 8.5 years as the companion star orbits into V Hydrae’s atmosphere.

hubblecannoball webNASA, ESA & A. Feild (STScI)

Not only could this explain the strange balls, it could also explain how bloated dying stars turn into beautiful, glowing planetary nebulae within just 200 to 1,000 years – which is an astronomical blink of an eye.

Hubble has captured images of planetary nebulae with a range of knotty structures with them, which looked a lot like jets of material ejected from accretion discs. But red giants don’t have accretion discs, so it never quite made sense. Now it’s possible that the knotty structures are produced by hidden companion stars.

“This model provides the most plausible explanation,” said Sahai. 

Another surprise from the study was that the plasma balls aren’t fired in the same direction every 8.5 years, it flip-flops slightly from side to side and back and forth, suggesting that there’s a wobble in the accretion disk.

This wobble means that sometimes the cannonballs would be shot out in front of V Hydrae (from Hubble’s perspective) and sometimes behind, and could explain why the star is obscured from view every 17 years.

“This discovery was quite surprising, but it is very pleasing as well because it helped explain some other mysterious things that had been observed about this star by others,” said Sahai.

More research is needed to verify this new hypothesis, and figure out the ultimate fate of the potential companion star and V Hydrae. But NASA will be watching closely to see what happens as the red giant eventually turns into a beautiful planetary nebula. There are worse ways to go.

Hubble discovers moon orbiting the dwarf planet Makemake


This artist's concept shows the distant dwarf planet Makemake and its newly discovered moon. Makemake and its moon, nicknamed MK 2, are more than 50 times farther away than Earth is from the Sun. The pair resides in the Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of frozen material from the construction of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Makemake is covered in bright, frozen methane that is tinted red by the presence of complex organic material. Its moon is too small to retain ices as volatile as methane, even given the feeble heating by the very distant Sun, and likely has a much darker surface. MK 2 is orbiting 13,000 miles from the dwarf planet, and its estimated diameter is roughly 100 miles. Makemake is 870 miles wide. Illustration credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Parker (Southwest Research Institute).
This artist’s concept shows the distant dwarf planet Makemake and its newly discovered moon. Makemake and its moon, nicknamed MK 2, are more than 50 times farther away than Earth is from the Sun. The pair resides in the Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of frozen material from the construction of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Makemake is covered in bright, frozen methane that is tinted red by the presence of complex organic material. Its moon is too small to retain ices as volatile as methane, even given the feeble heating by the very distant Sun, and likely has a much darker surface. MK 2 is orbiting 13,000 miles from the dwarf planet, and its estimated diameter is roughly 100 miles. Makemake is 870 miles wide. Illustration credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Parker (Southwest Research Institute).

Peering to the outskirts of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, the second brightest icy dwarf planet — after Pluto — in the Kuiper Belt.

The moon — provisionally designated S/2015 (136472) 1 and nicknamed MK 2 — is more than 1,300 times fainter than Makemake. MK 2 was seen approximately 13,000 miles from the dwarf planet, and its diameter is estimated to be 100 miles. Makemake is 870 miles wide. The dwarf planet, discovered in 2005, is named for a creation deity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast reservoir of leftover frozen material from the construction of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago and home to several dwarf planets. Some of these worlds have known satellites, but this is the first discovery of a companion object to Makemake. Makemake is one of five dwarf planets recognised by the International Astronomical Union.

The observations were made in April 2015 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Hubble’s unique ability to see faint objects near bright ones, together with its sharp resolution, allowed astronomers to pluck out the moon from Makemake’s glare. The discovery was announced today in a Minor Planet Electronic Circular.

The observing team used the same Hubble technique to observe the moon as they did for finding the small satellites of Pluto in 2005, 2011, and 2012. Several previous searches around Makemake had turned up empty. “Our preliminary estimates show that the moon’s orbit seems to be edge-on, and that means that often when you look at the system you are going to miss the moon because it gets lost in the bright glare of Makemake,” said Alex Parker of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, who led the image analysis for the observations.

A moon’s discovery can provide valuable information on the dwarf-planet system. By measuring the moon’s orbit, astronomers can calculate a mass for the system and gain insight into its evolution.

Uncovering the moon also reinforces the idea that most dwarf planets have satellites.

“Makemake is in the class of rare Pluto-like objects, so finding a companion is important,” Parker said. “The discovery of this moon has given us an opportunity to study Makemake in far greater detail than we ever would have been able to without the companion.”

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI). Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and A. Parker (Southwest Research Institute).
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI). Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and A. Parker (Southwest Research Institute).

Finding this moon only increases the parallels between Pluto and Makemake. Both objects are already known to be covered in frozen methane. As was done with Pluto, further study of the satellite will easily reveal the density of Makemake, a key result that will indicate if the bulk compositions of Pluto and Makemake are also similar. “This new discovery opens a new chapter in comparative planetology in the outer solar system,” said team leader Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

The researchers will need more Hubble observations to make accurate measurements to determine if the moon’s orbit is elliptical or circular. Preliminary estimates indicate that if the moon is in a circular orbit, it completes a circuit around Makemake in 12 days or longer.

Determining the shape of the moon’s orbit will help settle the question of its origin. A tight circular orbit means that MK 2 is probably the product of a collision between Makemake and another Kuiper Belt Object. If the moon is in a wide, elongated orbit, it is more likely to be a captured object from the Kuiper Belt. Either event would have likely occurred several billion years ago, when the solar system was young.

The discovery may have solved one mystery about Makemake. Previous infrared studies of the dwarf planet revealed that while Makemake’s surface is almost entirely bright and very cold, some areas appear warmer than other areas. Astronomers had suggested that this discrepancy may be due to the Sun warming discrete dark patches on Makemake’s surface. However, unless Makemake is in a special orientation, these dark patches should make the dwarf planet’s brightness vary substantially as it rotates. But this amount of variability has never been observed.

These previous infrared data did not have sufficient resolution to separate Makemake from MK 2. The team’s reanalysis, based on the new Hubble observations, suggests that much of the warmer surface detected previously in infrared light may, in reality, simply have been the dark surface of the companion MK 2.

There are several possibilities that could explain why the moon would have charcoal-black surface, even though it is orbiting a dwarf planet that is as bright as fresh snow. One idea is that, unlike larger objects such as Makemake, MK 2 is small enough that it cannot gravitationally hold onto a bright, icy crust, which sublimates, changing from solid to gas, under sunlight. This would make the moon similar to comets and other Kuiper Belt objects, many of which are covered with very dark material.

When Pluto’s moon Charon was discovered in 1978, astronomers quickly calculated the mass of the system. Pluto’s mass was hundreds of times smaller than the mass originally estimated when it was found in 1930. With Charon’s discovery, astronomers suddenly knew something was fundamentally different about Pluto. “That’s the kind of transformative measurement that having a satellite can enable,” Parker said.

Star blows blue cosmic bubble in new Hubble photo shared to celebrate 26 years in space


Blue cosmic bubble

NASA has shared this beautiful Hubble photograph of a star blowing a blue cosmic bubble.

The massive star, captured in amazing quality, is 7,100 light-years from Earth.

The star has the catchy name BD +60º2522 and is about “45 times more massive than our sun”.

The  Bubble Nebula is formed by gas escaping from the star’s outer layers, pushed outward by the stellar wind at 4 million miles per hour, NASA said.

This bubble is over 10 light-years in diameter and was created by intense stellar wind generated by a bright massive star within.

The space agency said: “This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble much like a snowplough piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward”.

International Space Station

879 days
Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka holds the record for spending the most time in space
$150,000,000,000
The cost of the ISS
17,100 mph
The average speed of the ISS
200-250 miles
The distance the ISS orbits above the Earth. That’s about the same distance as a drive from London to Liverpool or Scarborough
90%
At that distance, the force of gravity is still about 90 percent what it is here on the surface. The astronauts appear ‘weightless’ because of orbital motion

Star blows blue cosmic bubble in new Hubble photo shared to celebrate 26 years in space


NASA has shared this beautiful Hubble photograph of a star blowing a blue cosmic bubble.

The massive star, captured in amazing quality, is 7,100 light-years from Earth.

The star has the catchy name BD +60º2522 and is about “45 times more massive than our sun”.

The  Bubble Nebula is formed by gas escaping from the star’s outer layers, pushed outward by the stellar wind at 4 million miles per hour, NASA said.

This bubble is over 10 light-years in diameter and was created by intense stellar wind generated by a bright massive star within.

The space agency said: “This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble much like a snowplough piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward”.

Previous photos of the star show a beautiful and colorful view of the nebula, however this 26th anniversary image is special because it reveals  intricate lines of dust stretching through the nebula.

It was posted ahead of the weekend, which marks the 26th year in orbit for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the Shuttle Discovery.

The telescope could spend many more years in space – it’s expected that Hubble could function into the 2020s, even though its successor, the James Webb Space Telescops is expected to start functioning in 2018.

Hubble has given a lot of beautiful pictures to us – and  lot of important information to scientists.

It has seen more deeply into the cosmos than ever before, helped scientists figure out the age of the universe and found new moons of Pluto, as well as many more important discoveries.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/22/star-blows-blue-cosmic-bubble-in-new-hubble-photo-shared-to-cele/?cid=sf24816362&cid=sf24816684&sf24816362=1&sf24816684=1

Hubble captures stunning images of Bubble Nebula.


To mark the coming 26th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has released new photos of the distinctive Bubble Nebula, National Geographic reports. The nebula, an expanding sphere of hot gas 8000 light-years away, is one of the first objects Hubble photographed after its launch on 24 April 1990. At the time, the satellite’s camera could not focus properly and captured only part of the nebula. Two upgrades and 26 years later, Hubble can now capture the entirety of the bubble in stunning clarity as it expands into space at nearly 99,800 kilometers per hour.

Hubble

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/sifter/hubble-captures-stunning-images-bubble-nebula?utm_source=newsfromscience&utm_medium=facebook-text&utm_campaign=bubblenebula-3813

Hubble Looks Into a Cosmic Kaleidoscope


Pink, purple and blue colliding galaxy clusters

At first glance, this cosmic kaleidoscope of purple, blue and pink offers a strikingly beautiful — and serene — snapshot of the cosmos. However, this multi-colored haze actually marks the site of two colliding galaxy clusters, forming a single object known as MACS J0416.1-2403 (or MACS J0416 for short).

MACS J0416 is located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Eridanus. This image of the cluster combines data from three different telescopes: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (showing the galaxies and stars), the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory (diffuse emission in blue), and the NRAO Jansky Very Large Array (diffuse emission in pink). Each telescope shows a different element of the cluster, allowing astronomers to study MACS J0416 in detail.

As with all galaxy clusters, MACS J0416 contains a significant amount of dark matter, which leaves a detectable imprint in visible light by distorting the images of background galaxies. In this image, this dark matter appears to align well with the blue-hued hot gas, suggesting that the two clusters have not yet collided; if the clusters had already smashed into one another, the dark matter and gas would have separated. MACS J0416 also contains other features — such as a compact core of hot gas — that would likely have been disrupted had a collision already occurred.

Together with five other galaxy clusters, MACS J0416 is playing a leading role in the Hubble Frontier Fields program, for which this data was obtained. Owing to its huge mass, the cluster is in fact bending the light of background objects, acting as a magnifying lens. Astronomers can use this phenomenon to find galaxies that existed only hundreds of million years after the big bang.

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