Countdown to Brand New Hubble Images

It’s a countdown of cosmic proportions! In just six days, NASA will release the first images from the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope. These Early Release Observations (EROs) will be showcased at news briefings from NASA Headquarters at 15:00 GMT and 16:00 GMT (11 a.m. and noon EDT) Wednesday, Sept. 9 on NASA TV. The past few weeks, the Hubble team has concentrated on making high-priority science observations and finishing up instrument calibrations. Any clues as to what the first new images will include? Hubble scientists say the new images will be the first true display of the power of Hubble’s new technology, dazzling amateur and professional astronomers with a wealth of new information and areas for research. Here’s what the Hubble team has been working the past few weeks:

•The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has been completing its checkout, but it is now taking science images on a regular basis.

•The Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) is finished with its calibration activities and completing its work in support of Hubble’s EROs.

•The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) is in the final phases of its calibrations for both its near-ultraviolet and far-ultraviolet channels. The channels, which study different wavelengths of ultraviolet light, must be calibrated separately. For example, engineers and scientists are continuing to test the focus for the far-ultraviolet channel, while the near-ultraviolet channel’s focus appears to be good.

•The cooling system for the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has cooled the instrument down to operational levels, which is great news. NICMOS was not serviced during the STS-125 mission, but it was shut down in September 2008 following an anomaly during a spacecraft computer update. Engineers tried turning it on in July 2009, but the cooling system failed. But on on August 1, the cooling system restarted without the previous problems. “NICMOS began cooling efficiently,” said Frank Summers in the Hubble Blog, “and actually faster than expected. Note that when we say “cool,” we really mean “cold.” Really cold. Beyond Arctic, mind-numbing, freezingly cold. NICMOS is cooled to -321 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature needed for infrared observations.”

It takes NICMOS more than a week to achieve that temperature. Then the instrument must show stability at those temperatures for science to be possible. Engineers have now turned on the detectors to begin the several-week calibration process for NICMOS. So far so good, and surely we’ll hear more about NICMOS during the news briefing next week.

And there will pictures, too!

Anybody else excited?

Sources: HubbleSite, Hubble Blog

10 Replies to “Countdown to Brand New Hubble Images”

  1. believe me i am more than excited. i’ve been counting the days ever since i they were repairing Hubble. WOOOT six days!

  2. Wouldn’t it be better to quit using Fahrenheit and other non-metric stuff in Universe Today? As a portal to science this is the place to start. thinking metric.

  3. For those of us using sensible units, -321 F is 77 K, or -196 C

    Fahrenheit temperatures make no sense to most people outside the US…

  4. Thanks MarkW! Also, such a low number doesn’t make much sense to anybody, in either Celsius or Fahrenheit. So thanks for the Kelvin number!

  5. For those of us using sensible units, -321 F is 77 K, or -196 C

    Fahrenheit temperatures make no sense to most people outside the US…

    Actually, far away from 0 you divide by two and there you have a rough idea of the temperature in celsius. Liquid nitrogen refrigerator temperatures are easy enough to spot too, btw.

    But Fahrenheit doesn’t really _help_, celsius relates to kelvin.

    And the spelling is more readable. All small letters in SI unit names [meter, kelvin, ampere], which distinguish from any proper name.

    While we are at the topic of (inconvenient) units, why is parsec ubiquitous in astronomy? If you can’t make parallax measurements beyond say 100 parsecs, light years makes universal [sic!] sense. Or so you would think.

  6. Re Parsec my (un)qualified guess is that it is to do with the Ladder. The bottom rung is determined through parallax, so presumably sticking to that means less conversion along the way – a minor issue these days where we know the AU to great certainty, I’d assume, but it’d make some kind of sense historically.

  7. For those who want to convert Celsius degrees into Farenheit ones, this formulae looks very easy to get:

    F°= C°x9:5+32 . e.g for 100C°; F°= 100C°x9:5+32 = 212F°
    C°= F°- 32 x 5:9
    eg: 212F°-32=180
    i was taught it for ages that even in my seventies i can use it; nowadays, i can say that my old teacher was so different from the modern ones and i thank him for being so strong and severe about the students we were.

  8. Cannot friggin’ wait!

    My two bob on the units discussion (or 384 cents if you prefer a more sensible monetary system 🙂 ) – Kelvin should be the default for temp. on any science site. But this is a popular site, and often people have no idea what Kelvins are. Hell – some here may not even know what absolute zero is – sort of a prerequisite for understanding the Kelvin scale. If we are really keen to get people interested in astronomy via this (and other) sites, then we also need to express temperatures in units they are familiar with, in an everyday kind of way. That means even in antiquated ones, considering such a huge portion of the world (America) still largely think in those terms, and the payoff for getting more of the public interested in science is huge. No need to drown their enthusiasm before it even begins by swamping them in jargon.

    And remember – all units and scales, even the Kelvin and Celcius systems, are basically entirely arbitrary in the end…

  9. @ Terragen: that just makes me laugh!

    I just want to know how the Fahrenheit scale was proposed in the first place?(compared to how the Celsius scale might have been proposed) After doing some research I found that Fahrenheit came before Celsius but still no reason to hold on to it. I’m English and hate our Imperial measurement scheme.

    As for Hubble, I have so much respect for her/him, almost two decades and still going strong, viva la Hubble!

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