Space Hubble Telescope News

NASA and STScI Select 17 Hubble Fellows for 2014


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NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Md., administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA. The Hubble Fellowship Program includes all research relevant to present and future missions in NASA's Cosmic Origins theme. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2014. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Finds That Monster 'El Gordo' Galaxy Cluster Is Bigger Than Thought


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If someone told you there was an object in space called "El Gordo" (Spanish for "the fat one") you might imagine some kind of planet-eating monster straight out of a science fiction movie. The nickname refers to a monstrous cluster of galaxies that is being viewed at a time when the universe was just half of its current age of 13.8 billion years. This is an object of superlatives. It contains several hundred galaxies swarming around under a collective gravitational pull. The total mass of the cluster, and refined in new Hubble measurements, is estimated to be as much as 3 million billion stars like our Sun (about 3,000 times more massive than our own Milky Way galaxy) though most of the mass is hidden away as dark matter. The cluster may be so huge because it is the result of a titanic collision and merger between two separate galaxy clusters. Thankfully, our Milky Way galaxy grew up in an uncluttered backwater region of the universe. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Stretches Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Farther into Space


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Astronomers continue refining the precision of distance measurement techniques to better understand the dimensions of the universe. Calculating the age of the universe, its expansion rate, and the nature of dark energy all depend on the precise distance measurements to stars and galaxies. If the astronomical yardsticks are off, the astronomical interpretation may be flawed. The most reliable method for making astronomical distance measurements is to use straightforward geometry where the 186-million-mile diameter of Earth's orbit is used to construct a baseline of a triangle, much as a land surveyor would use. If a target star is close enough, it will appear to zigzag on the sky during the year as a reflection of Earth's orbit about the Sun. This technique is called parallax. The stars are so far away that the angle of this parallax shift is incredibly tiny. An innovative new observing technique has extended Hubble's yardstick 10 times farther into our galaxy, out to a distance of 7,500 light-years from Earth. (More at Hubble Site)
Astronomical Forensics Uncover Planetary Disks in Hubble Archive


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Nearly 2,000 planets have been confirmed to be orbiting other stars in our galaxy. But the details of planet birth and formation are sparse. The conventional wisdom, dating back to a hypothesis by philosopher Immanuel Kant the Marquis de Laplace in the late 1700s, considered the orbit of the planets in our solar system to be the skeleton of disks of dust and gas that swirled around the newborn sun. The dust particles clumped together to build planets from the ground up. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Astronomers Check the Prescription of a Cosmic Lens


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If you need to check whether the prescription for your eye glasses or contact lenses is still accurate, you visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. The doctor will ask you to read an eye chart, which tests your visual acuity. Your score helps the doctor determine whether to change your prescription. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Shows that Jupiter's Great Red Spot Is Smaller than Ever Seen Before


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Jupiter's monster storm, the Great Red Spot, was once so large that three Earths would fit inside it. But new measurements by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the largest storm in our solar system has downsized significantly. The red spot, which has been raging for at least a hundred years, is only the width of one Earth. What is happening? One possibility is that some unknown activity in the planet's atmosphere may be draining energy and weakening the storm, causing it to shrink. The Hubble images were taken in 1995, 2009, and 2014. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Team Unveils Most Colorful View of Universe Captured by Space Telescope


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Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 24-year-old telescope. This study, which includes ultraviolet light, provides the missing link in star formation. (More at Hubble Site)
NASA's Hubble to Begin Search Beyond Pluto for a New Horizons Mission Target


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The Kuiper Belt is the final frontier of our solar system, and also the vastest. Stretching from 3 to 5 billion miles from the Sun, it contains myriad primate icy bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. After passing the dwarf planet Pluto in July 2015, NASA's New Horizons space probe will hurtle deep into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 35,000 miles per hour. The Hubble Space Telescope is being used to search for a suitable Kuiper Belt object that New Horizons could pay a visit to. It would be our first and perhaps last look at such a remote relic from the distant past. The search is very challenging even for Hubble's sharp vision. It has to find something the size of Manhattan Island, as black as charcoal, and embedded against a snowstorm of background stars. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Finds That Dwarf Galaxies Formed More Than Their Fair Share of the Universe's Stars


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They may be little, but they pack a big star-forming punch. Hubble astronomers have found that dwarf galaxies in the young universe were responsible for an "early wave" of star formation not long after the big bang. The galaxies churned out stars at a furiously fast rate, far above the "normal" star formation expected of galaxies. Understanding the link between a galaxy's mass and its star-forming activity helps to assemble a consistent picture of events in the early universe. (More at Hubble Site)
Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole


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Active galaxies host supermassive black holes in their cores. The intense gravity of the black hole creates a turbulent cauldron of extreme physics. These galaxies, such as NGC 5548 in this study, are too far away for the plasma fireworks to be directly imaged. Therefore astronomers use X-ray and ultraviolet spectroscopy to infer what is happening near the black hole. The new twist is the detection of a clumpy stream of gas that has swept in front of the black hole, blocking its radiation. This deep look into a black hole's environment yields clues to the behavior of active galaxies. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble to Proceed with Full Search for New Horizons Targets


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Planetary scientists have successfully used the Hubble Space Telescope to boldly look out to the far frontier of the solar system to find suitable targets for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. After the marathon probe zooms past Pluto in July 2015, it will travel across the Kuiper Belt a vast rim of primitive ice bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. If NASA approves, the probe could be redirected to fly to a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) and photograph it up close. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Sees Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Between Two Ancient Galaxies


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It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a 100,000-light-year-long structure that looks like a string of pearls twisted into a corkscrew shape. This Slinky-like structure forms a bridge between two giant elliptical galaxies that are colliding. The "pearls" on the Slinky are superclusters of blazing, blue-white, newly born stars. The whole assembly, which looks like a tug-of-war, must result from the gravitational tidal forces present in the collision. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets


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Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun and have come up nearly dry. The planets spectroscopically surveyed have only one-tenth to one one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet-formation theories. The planets are not habitable because they are gaseous and are as big as Jupiter. They lie so much closer to their host star than Jupiter is to our Sun, so their atmospheres are seething between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, this result suggests that some percentage of Earth-size exoplanets may be more deficient in water than predicted. And, water is a necessary prerequisite for life as we know it. The search for water-bearing terrestrial worlds may be more challenging than thought for future space telescopes. And, scientists may have to revisit their theories of planet formation. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Shows Farthest Lensing Galaxy Yields Clues to Early Universe


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Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have unexpectedly discovered the most distant cosmic magnifying glass yet, produced by a monster elliptical galaxy. The galaxy, seen here as it looked 9.6 billion years ago, is so massive that its gravity bends, magnifies, and distorts light from objects behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. In the Hubble image, the galaxy is the red object in the enlarged view at left. (More at Hubble Site)
NASA's Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential 'Zombie Star'


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Supernovae are the most powerful stellar explosions in the universe. Some of them are produced by the detonation of a white dwarf, the stripped-down core of an ordinary star at the end of its life. But 12 years ago, astronomers began noticing weak stellar blasts, a kind of mini-supernova. When one such explosion occurred in the galaxy NGC 1309, astronomers looking through Hubble archival images found for the first time the star system that produced the supernova blast of a white dwarf. (More at Hubble Site)
NASA Telescopes Help Uncover Early Construction Phase Of Giant Galaxy


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The birth of massive galaxies, according to galaxy formation theories, begins with the buildup of a dense, compact core that is ablaze with the glow of millions of newly formed stars. Evidence of this early construction phase, however, has eluded astronomers until now. Astronomers identified a dense galactic core, dubbed "Sparky," using a combination of data from Hubble and Spitzer, other space telescopes, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Hubble photographed the emerging galaxy as it looked 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the birth of our universe in the big bang. (More at Hubble Site)
New iBooks Textbook Helps Visually Impaired Visit the Stars Through Touch and Sound


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Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled "Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn." Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute have teamed up with the SAS Corporation, the National Braille Press, and the National Federation of the Blind to create a book to inspire students of all abilities. Students with visual impairments can access the book using the VoiceOver screen reader that is available on every iPad. The book is available as a free download from Apple's iBooks Store at (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Finds Companion Star Hidden for 21 Years in a Supernova's Glare


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For over two decades astronomers have been patiently monitoring the fading glow of a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They've been looking for a suspected companion star that pulled off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star that exploded. At last Hubble's ultraviolet-light sensitivity pulled out the blue glow of the star from the cluttered starlight in the disk of the galaxy. This observation confirms the theory that the supernova originated in a double-star system where one star fueled the mass-loss from the aging primary star. The surviving star's brightness and estimated mass provide insight into the conditions that preceded the 1993 explosion. (More at Hubble Site)
Hubble Helps Find Smallest Known Galaxy with a Supermassive Black Hole


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Astronomers have found an unlikely object in an improbable place: a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies known. The dwarf galaxy containing the black hole is the densest galaxy ever seen, cramming 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years (just 1/500th of our Milky Way galaxy's diameter). However, the black hole inside the galaxy is five times the mass of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way. This suggests that the dwarf galaxy may actually be the stripped remnant of a larger galaxy that was torn apart during a close encounter with a more massive galaxy. The finding implies that there are many other compact galaxies in the universe that contain supermassive black holes. (More at Hubble Site)
NASA Telescopes Find Clear Skies and Water Vapor on Exo-Neptune


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The weather forecast for a planet 120 light-years from Earth is clear skies and steamy water vapor. Finding clear skies on a gaseous world the size of Neptune is a good sign that even smaller, Earth-size planets might have similarly good visibility. This would allow earthbound astronomers to measure the underlying atmospheric composition of an exoplanet. Astronomers using the Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler space telescopes were able to determine that the planet, cataloged HAT-P-11b, has water vapor in its atmosphere. The world is definitely steamy with temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet is so hot because it orbits so close to its star, completing one orbit every five days. (More at Hubble Site)