Hubble's Universe Unfiltered

  • September 14, 2009

    Episode 11: Hubble is Back!

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    Shownotes

    During the May 2009 servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts completed a wide range of maintenance tasks, upgrades, and repairs. The process for checking out the observatory and confirming the success of that work has taken months. Finally, the results of those incredible efforts are ready to be exhibited to the world. Quite simply, they are spectacular. Hubble is back, and it is better than ever! Join us for a look at the new images, the new capabilities, and the promise of continued cutting-edge astronomy for years to come.

    • Although Hubble only took time out for one image of Jupiter's 2009 impact site, there are a huge number of other images available on the Web. Many of these images are from so-called "amateur" astronomers. That designation just means they don't get paid for their observations, as their work is often top-notch. One particularly striking compilation of images is this animated GIF of the development of the impact site. It shows clearly how the dark spot spread out into a long, linear feature over the weeks following the impact.

    • Note that the Butterfly Nebula is not an official name. The object is called NGC 6302 or the Bug Nebula in astronomy catalogs. However, during the development of the press release many team members became accustomed to calling it the Butterfly. That name was used during the press conference and has been widely adopted by the media reports. It will be interesting to see if that name sticks with the astronomy community. My guess is that the descriptive name is appropriate enough that it will eventually be adopted as an alternate name.

    • One aspect of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) image of Omega Centauri that doesn't show up in the video podcast is the vast number of faint red stars in the image. If you download the full-resolution image and examine it in detail, you will see small red dots throughout the background of the image. Remember that red in this image is infrared light, meaning that these must be faint stars that have no appreciable emission in ultraviolet light (blue in this image). Small, red stars are the most numerous stars in the universe, as is evidenced by this dim red horde in the background.

    • I have always pronounced the constellation "Carina" as 'ka-ree-na," with a long "e" sound in the second syllable. However, other astronomers use the pronunciation 'ka-rye-na,' with a long "i" sound. Recently, I checked some online dictionaries and — while both seem to be accepted — the long "i" pronunciation seems to be preferred. I have been trying to force myself to use that form, but it can be rather difficult to break old habits. Please forgive me if I switch back and forth.

    • Stephan's Quintet has an unusual place in popular culture for a galaxy group. The galaxies appear in the beginning of the 1946 classic film "It's a Wonderful Life." They are used to represent the angels talking to each other in the heavens. Director Frank Capra probably didn't know that one of his angels was 240 million light-years away from the others!

    Image notes

    Hubble Space Telescope After Servicing Mission 4
    Credit: NASA

    Jupiter with SL9 Impacts
    Credit: Hubble Space Telescope Comet Team and NASA

    Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver and E. Smith (STScI)

    Jupiter with 2009 Impact
    Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Wong (STScI), H. B. Hammel (Space Science Institute), and the Jupiter Impact Team

    Close-up of 2009 Impact on Jupiter
    Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Hammel (Space Science Institute), and the Jupiter Impact Team

    Astronaut Drew Feustal and WFPC2
    Credit: NASA

    Helix Nebula
    Credit: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO)

    Spirograph Nebula
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Retina Nebula
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    NGC 2346
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    NGC 6751
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Cat's Eye Nebula
    Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Butterfly Nebula
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Messier 80
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Omega Centauri from WFPC2
    Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    Omega Centauri from WFC3
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Pillar in Carina Nebula
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Pillar in Carina Nebula, Infrared View
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Pillar in Carina Nebula, Visible and Infrared Composite View
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Stephan's Quintet
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Abell 370
    Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team, and ST-ECF

    Spectrum of Quasar PKS 0405-123
    Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team, and Digitized Sky Survey

    Spectrum of Eta Carinae
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

    Hubble Space Telescope
    Credit: NASA