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Light Spectrum

Wide Field Camera 3, or WFC3, brought new depth and range to Hubble upon its installation in 2009 and has provided many of Hubble's most iconic recent images. Its vision encompasses near-infrared light, visible light, and near-ultraviolet radiation. It has studied everything from star formation in the near and distant universe to galaxies in the most remote regions of the cosmos.

WFC3 has higher resolution — or ability to distinguish details — and a larger field of view — or area the camera is able to see — than the instrument it replaced, Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Its ability to see in multiple wavelengths has been a tremendous boon to astronomers, who pair it with the visible-light prowess of the Advanced Camera for Surveys to gain a view of the universe unprecedented in its completeness and clarity. WFC3 enables such projects as Hubble's ongoing Frontier Fields program, which observes the far reaches of the universe.

Double vision

WFC3 has two "channels." Each channel detects and processes different wavelengths. The ultraviolet-visible channel can be used to study nearby galaxies and galaxies undergoing bursts of star formation. The near-infrared channel can be used to study the light from distant galaxies, which has been stretched by its travels through the expanding universe into infrared light. Because we see the most distant galaxies as they were in the early life of the universe, this gives us a glimpse of the history and evolution of the universe.

Wide Field Camera 3 was installed in May 2009 during Servicing Mission 4, taking the place of the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, which was Hubble's workhorse instrument for many of its early years. WFC3 was developed jointly by the Hubble program at Goddard Space Flight Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.