Friday, June 6, 2014

NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) facing retirement

It's taken dazzling images of galaxies, stars, planets and other celestial sights, 38,000 in total.

Now beginning its 25th year orbiting Earth at 17,500 mph, the Hubble Space Telescope is getting near the end of its dazzling mission.

Continually upgraded and updated throughout its life, Hubble will now be left alone to slowly degrade and, eventually, drift back to Earth and burn-up in the atmosphere.

Fortunately, Hubble won't be the last space telescope. Far from it, Hubble's replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will launch in October 2018 and be a stunning 100x times more powerful.

It's developers say that it will be able see back in time to the the very edge of the universe.

Within the 844GB of data per month sent back to Earth, and 100 terabytes in all, have been some ground-breaking images of planets and remote galaxies that have laid bare the very essence of space and time.

Perhaps the most important observation was the Hubble Deep Field, a long-exposure image taken in 1995 that captured the light of 4,000 galaxies near The Plough stretching 12 billion years back into time.

Hubble is a time machine; it captures light that's travelled since the beginning of time, and presents us photographs of things as they were just after the Big Bang.

The Hubble Deep Field image is fitting indeed; Hubble is named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who theorised in the 1920s that the universe is expanding.

Around 6,500 light-years away in the constellation of Taurus is the stunning Crab Nebula, also called M1. 

It's the remnants of a star than went supernova in the year 1054, an event recorded by astronomers in China, Japan and Korea as a new star in Taurus.

Taken back in 2008, this image is about 10 light years wide and shows what happens when a star explodes.

Hubble is able to pick-out the mysterious and incredibly intricate filaments of the explosion.

At the centre is the remnant of the supernova, a dense pulsar that rotates 30 times each second.

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