25 Years of Hubble

NASA Unveils Celestial Fireworks as Official Hubble 25th Anniversary Image
Source: Hubblesite.org

Happy Anniversary Hubble! Hubble was launched 25 years ago today on 24 April 1990 aboard the Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-31.

The Hubble was deployed on 25 April 1990 and immediately a problem with the optics was noticed and it would take a couple of years to get a correction in place. Once the corrective optics, kind of like “eye-glasses” for the telescope were flown up in December 1993 aboard the Shuttle Endeavour along with a few other upgrades and the repairs were made, the images were stunning.

Hubble has be serviced a few times since and continues to advance our knowledge and will for many more years with any luck at all.

About the image from Hubblesite:

NASA and ESA are celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature’s own fireworks — a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides inside a vibrant stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. The comparatively young, 2-million-year-old star cluster contains some of our galaxy’s hottest, brightest, and most massive stars. The largest stars are unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds that etch away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud. This creates a fantasy celestial landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys.

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team

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Mickiewicz Crater

messengersecondaries

This picture of Mickiewicz crater on the planet Mercury from the MESSENGER spacecraft. will be one of the last from the spacecraft as it spirals in towards the planet surface.

This particular image was acquired on 21 April 2015 with the Narrow Angle Camera. The image scale is only 5 km / 3 miles across and the resolution is 5 meters/pixel and every day the resolution is increasing as the spacecraft’s altitude decreases.

The impact is very close. After a successful Orbit Correction Maneuver planned for tomorrow (24 April 2015) the MESSENGER spacecraft will impact the surface of Mercury on 30 April 2015 between 19:25 and 19:30 UTC. That time is just a good estimate, impact time depends on how the correction maneuver goes and could be either a bit earlier or even up to one orbit later (8.3 hours). The time will surely be more certain after the correction maneuver tomorrow.

Impact confirmation will be the inability to establish communication between the spacecraft and Earth-based tracking systems.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

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Lyrids Meteor Shower

Hopefully tonight you have clear skies because it’s time for the Lyrid meteor shower.

Actually the shower goes from about 16 April to 26 April and tonight should be near the peak. The meteor rate is usually about 10 per hour with occasional outburst years of over 100 per hour.

This meteor shower has observations that go back 2600 years or more. Have a look at Meteor Showers Online for a concise history on the Lyrids and finders charts for both northern and southern hemispheres.

ScienceAtNASA just published this video, it’s pretty good with some great tips. You might have to convert the times they give in the video (UTC = EDT + 4). Basically if it is dark and you can see stars, get comfortable and look up, the moon won’t be a problem. Follow the trails back and you will find the constellation Lyra the namesake of the shower.

Good luck and have fun!

Video link

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Hubble and NGC 2865

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Yes the galaxy NGC 2865 is a bit different, an elliptical with lots of young stars is not what we would first think of in an elliptical galaxy. I’ll let ESA/NASA explain, but be sure to click the image and get the larger version. The number of galaxies much further away is amazing and one of the hallmarks of Hubble images.

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows an elliptical galaxy called NGC 2865. It lies just over 100 million light-years away from us in the constellation of Hydra — The Sea Serpent — and was discovered in 1835 by astronomer John Herschel.

Elliptical galaxies are usually filled with old, dying stars. NGC 2865, however, is relatively youthful and dynamic, with a rapidly rotating disk full of young stars and metal-rich gas. For an elliptical galaxy it contains an unusually high number of young stars — suggesting that a galaxy-wide starburst took place about one billion years ago.

The starburst itself was induced by a merger between a spiral galaxy, similar to our galaxy, the Milky Way, and an elliptical galaxy some three times more massive — the progenitor galaxy of NGC 2865. The new gas from the spiral galaxy revitalized the dying population of old stars in the elliptical galaxy, and several new generations of stars were born.

The faint halo surrounding the galaxy, visible in this image, is also a result of this merger. It consists of cold gas that was ripped away from the spiral galaxy during the merging process. The gas now forms an almost closed shell around its host galaxy.

European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

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10 km for Curiosity

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The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gives is this look at the rover Curiosity’s trek since about mid-July 2014. The image shows an area about 2 km / 1.25 miles wide.

We can follow the path though shallow valleys from the Pahrump Hills where it has been for six months towards its next destination: Logan Pass.

The green star marks Curiosity’s location on Sol 957 (16 April 2015) when the rover odometer turned to 10 km / 6.2 miles.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

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