Nov
20
2006

Hubble Revived

The Hubble Space Telescope.: Image courtesy NASA.
The Hubble Space Telescope.: Image courtesy NASA.
As someone who is fascinated by space, the Hubble Space Telescope is something that I think is not only cool, but also essential to our learning about the universe we live in. That’s why this summer I was bummed to learn that NASA had decided to let the telescope fail in the coming years and then crash it into the ocean. I was happy to learn a few weeks ago that NASA has now announced that it will send a space shuttle crew to service and upgrade the telescope to make it functional through 2013. The service mission will add two new instruments to the telescope, allowing for even better observations than before.


Hubble was designed to be upgraded while in orbit – and it has had four service missions since its launch in 1990. Each service mission has improved the performance of the telescope and the images and data it sends to scientists and researchers.

This fifth servicing mission will include regular maintenance such as installing new gyroscopes and new batteries, and also the installation of two new instruments, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

According to NASA,

COS will measure the structure and composition of the ordinary matter concentrated in the "cosmic web," long, narrow filaments of galaxies and intergalactic gas separated by huge voids. COS will use faint distant quasars as "cosmic flashlights," whose beams of light pass through the cosmic web. Absorption of this light by "stuff" in the web reveals characteristics of that material. This allows scientists to determine its composition and its specific location in space. These observations, covering vast distances across space and time, will illuminate both the large-scale structure of the universe and the progressive changes in chemical composition of matter as the universe has grown older.

The WFC3 will extend Hubble's capability to see deep into the universe, with the power to observe in multiple wavelengths (colors) of light including infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. WFC3 can, for example, observe young, hot stars that glow predominantly in ultraviolet and older, cooler stars that glow predominantly in infrared in the same galaxy. The first stars and galaxies to form in the universe are so old and distant that their light is now relegated to infrared wavelengths.

Other scheduled work includes installing a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor, as well as attempting to repair the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Installed in 1997, it stopped working in 2004.

The [Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph] is used for high resolution studies in visible and ultraviolet light of both nearby star systems and distant galaxies, providing information about the motions and chemical makeup of stars, planetary atmospheres, and other galaxies.

Here is a lineup of the current equipment onboard Hubble.

The service mission is tentatively scheduled for 2008.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I thik that Bush should do something ubout this issue.

posted on Tue, 11/21/2006 - 1:56pm

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