Space Hubble Telescope News

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Iridescent Glory of Nearby Planetary Nebula Showcased on Astronomy Day

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This photograph of the coil-shaped Helix Nebula is one of the largest and most detailed celestial images ever made. The composite picture is a seamless blend of ultra-sharp images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope combined with the wide view of the Mosaic Camera on the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. The image shows a fine web of filamentary "bicycle-spoke" features embedded in the colorful red and blue ring of gas. At 650 light-years away, the Helix is one of the nearest planetary nebulae to Earth. A planetary nebula is the glowing gas around a dying, Sun-like star.

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NASA's Great Observatories May Unravel 400-Year Old Supernova Mystery

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Four hundred years ago, sky watchers, including the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler, were startled by the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the western sky, rivaling the brilliance of the nearby planets. Now, astronomers using NASA's three Great Observatories are unraveling the mysteries of the expanding remains of Kepler's supernova, the last such object seen to explode in our Milky Way galaxy.

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Hubble Celebrates the International Year of Astronomy with the Galaxy Triplet Arp 274

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On April 1-2, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the winning target in the Space Telescope Science Institute's "You Decide" competition in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). The winner is a group of galaxies called Arp 274. The striking object received 67,021 votes out of the nearly 140,000 votes cast for the six candidate targets.

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Starry-Eyed Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Awe and Discovery

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NASA's best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation this month. On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into a low Earth orbit. What followed was one of the most remarkable sagas of the space age. Hubble's unprecedented capabilities made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. And, its pictures were unmistakably out of this world. This brand new Hubble photo is of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble's classic "Pillars of Creation" photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air.

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are celebrating Hubble's journey of exploration with this stunning new picture, online educational activities, an opportunity for people to explore galaxies as armchair scientists, and an opportunity for astronomy enthusiasts to send in their own personal greetings to Hubble for posterity.

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Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

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Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time. The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Astronomers continue studying this area of sky with Hubble. Extensive ongoing observing programs, led by Harry Teplitz and Richard Ellis at the California Institute of Technology, will allow astronomers to study the deep-field galaxies with Hubble to even greater depths in ultraviolet and infrared light prior to the launch of JWST. These new results will provide even more extraordinary views of this region of the sky and will be shared with the public in the coming months.

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NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with a National Unveiling of Spectacular Images

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In 1609, Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens and gave birth to modern astronomy. To commemorate four hundred years of exploring the universe, 2009 is designated the International Year of Astronomy. NASA's Great Observatories - the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory - are marking the occasion with the release of a suite of images at over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country in conjunction with Galileo's birthday on February 15. The selected sites will unveil a large, 9-square-foot print of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 that combines the optical view of Hubble, the infrared view of Spitzer, and the X-ray view of Chandra into one multiwavelength picture.

The International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories Image Unveiling is supported by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division. The project is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Spitzer Science Center, and the Chandra X-ray Center.

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Hubble Opens Doorway to Systematic Search for Black Holes

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Hubble Space Telescope's ongoing black hole hunt has bagged yet another supermassive black hole in the universe. The compact object - equal to the mass of two billion suns - lies at the heart of the edge-on galaxy NGC 3115, located 30 million light-years away in the constellation Sextans.

This result promises to open the way to systematic demographic studies of very massive black holes that might once have powered quasars - objects that are incredibly small, yet release a gusher of light and other radiation.

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Cosmic Collisions Galore!

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Astronomy textbooks typically present galaxies as staid, solitary, and majestic island worlds of glittering stars. But galaxies have a dynamical side. They have close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes. Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

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Hubble Investigates Comet on a Collision Course with Jupiter

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided the most detailed look yet at the comet hurtling toward a July 1994 collision with the giant planet Jupiter. Hubble's high resolution shows that the approximately 20 objects that comprise comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 – giving it the resemblance of a "string of pearls" – are much smaller than originally estimated from observations with ground-based telescopes. According to Dr. Harold Weaver of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) Baltimore, MD, the Hubble observations show that the cometary nuclei are probably no bigger than three miles across, as opposed to earlier estimates of nine miles.

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Evolution of the P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 "Gang of Four" Region

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This series of eight NASA Hubble Space Telescope "snapshots" shows the evolution of the P-Q complex, also called the "gang of four" region, of comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9.

The eight individual frames chronicle changes in the comet during the 12 months before colliding with Jupiter. The sequence shows that the relative separations of the various cometary fragments, thought to range in size from about 500 meters to almost 4 km (2.5 miles) across, changed dramatically over this period. The apparent separation of Q1 and Q2 was only about 1100 kilometers (680 miles) on 1 July 1993 and increased to 28,000 kilometers (17,400 miles) by 20 July 1994.

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Galaxy NGC 4881 and the Coma Cluster

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This Hubble telescope photo mosaic shows a field of distant galaxies.

The brightest object in this picture is NGC 4881 [just above center], an elliptical galaxy in the outskirts of the Coma Cluster, a great cluster of galaxies more than five times farther away than the Virgo Cluster. The distance to the Coma Cluster is an important cosmic yardstick for scaling the overall size of the universe.

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Hubble's View of Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672

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This NASA Hubble Space Telescope view of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672 unveils details in the galaxy's star-forming clouds and dark bands of interstellar dust. NGC 1672 is more than 60 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado. These observations of NGC 1672 were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in August of 2005.

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Astronomers Measure Mass of Largest Dwarf Planet

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has teamed up with the W.M. Keck Observatory to precisely measure the mass of Eris, the largest member of a new class of dwarf planets in our solar system. Eris is 1.27 times the mass of Pluto, formerly the largest member of the Kuiper Belt of icy objects beyond Neptune.

Hubble observations in 2006 showed that Eris is slightly physically larger than Pluto. But the mass could only be calculated by observing the orbital motion of the moon Dysnomia around Eris. Multiple images of Dysnomia's movement along its orbit were taken by Hubble and Keck.

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Gruber Cosmology Prize Awarded to STScI Dark Energy Discoverers

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Four astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. are on two teams sharing the $500,000 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize for their discovery that the expanding universe is accelerating under a mysterious cosmic force called dark energy.

The astronomers are Andrew Fruchter (top left), Ron Gilliland (top right), Nino Panagia (bottom left), and Adam Riess (bottom right). Gilliland and Riess are on the High-z Supernova Search Team led by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University. Fruchter and Panagia are on the Supernova Cosmology Project led by Saul Perlmutter of the University of California at Berkeley.

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Astronomers Find Highly Elliptical Disk Around Young Star

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Dust and debris parade in an extremely misshapen ring around the young star, HD 15115. The disk, seen edge-on with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is the dense blue line extending from the star to the upper right and lower left of the image. The disk appears thicker at upper right than at lower left, evidence of its lopsided structure. Astronomers think the disk's needle-like look is caused by dust particles following a highly elliptical orbit around the star. The lopsidedness may have been caused by planets sweeping up debris in the disk or by the gravity of a nearby star. An occulting mask on Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys was used to block out the bright starlight in order to see the dim disk. The occulting masks can be seen in the image as the dark circle in the center and the dark bar on the left. The star is behind the central mask. The Hubble image was taken on July 17, 2006. Follow-up observations in 2006 and 2007 with the W.M. Keck Observatory investigated the odd disk further.

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Out of Whack Planetary System Offers Clues to a Disturbed Past

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For just over a decade, astronomers have known that three Jupiter-type planets orbit the yellow-white star Upsilon Andromedae. But to their surprise it's now been discovered that not all planets orbit this star in the same plane, as the major planets in our solar system orbit the Sun. The orbits of two of the planets are inclined by 30 degrees with respect to each other. Such a strange orientation has never before been seen in any other planetary system. This surprising finding will impact theories of how planetary systems form and evolve, say researchers. It suggests that some violent events can happen to disrupt planets' orbits after a planetary system forms. The discovery was made by joint observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and other ground-based telescopes.

These findings were presented in a press conference today at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami.

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Beyond the Brim, Sombrero Galaxy's Halo Suggests a Turbulent Past

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Like a desperado in the Wild West, the broad "brim" of the Sombrero galaxy's disk may conceal a turbulent past. The Sombrero (M104) has never been a galaxy to fit the mold. It has an intriguing mix of shapes found in disk-shaped spiral galaxies, as well as football-shaped elliptical galaxies. The story of its structure becomes stranger with new evidence from the Hubble Space Telescope indicating the Sombrero is the result of major galaxy mergers, though its smooth disk shows no signs of recent disruption.

The galaxy's faint halo offers forensic clues. It's littered with innumerable stars that are rich in heavier elements (called metals), because they are later-generation stars. Such stars are usually only found in a galaxy's disk. They must have been tossed into the halo through mergers with mature, metal-rich galaxies in the distant past. The iconic galaxy now looks a bit more settled in its later years. It is now so isolated, there is nothing else around to feed on. This finding offers a new twist on how galaxies assemble themselves in our compulsive universe.

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Hubble Team Wins the 2020 Michael Collins Trophy

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Through its 30 years of discoveries and awesome celestial images, the legendary Hubble Space Telescope has redefined the universe for new generations of astronomers and the public alike. This would not have been possible without the perseverance and expertise of a team of Hubble operations experts at the Space Telescope Science Institute, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

In recognition of Hubble's scientific prowess and longevity, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. has awarded their 2020 Collins Trophy for Current Achievement to the Hubble operations team.

"Through the efforts of the Hubble team the observatory has continued to produce research unachievable with any other instrument. System engineers in Hubble's control center and science operations facility have continued to find creative ways to operate the 30-year-old spacecraft to make this revolutionary science possible ensuring its capabilities will continue for years to come," the museum reported.

The Collins Trophy recognizes achievements involving the management or execution of a scientific or technological project, a distinguished career of service in air and space technology, or a significant contribution in chronicling the history of air and space technology.

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