Here’s Hubble’s First Image in its New Pointing Mode

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the galaxy NGC 1546 while in single gyro mode. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, David Thilker (JHU)

This is probably what the demise of the Hubble Space Telescope was always going to look like: components failing one by one, with no way to replace them. In the last few months, the Hubble has repeatedly gone into safe mode as one of its remaining three gyros keeps giving faulty readings. But the Hubble and the people operating it are resilient and resourceful. The telescope is back to science operations now, though in single gyro mode.

NASA has released the first image the Hubble captured in this mode, and it’s clear that the Hubble is performing well.

Continue reading “Here’s Hubble’s First Image in its New Pointing Mode”

Hubble's Back, but Only Using One Gyro

This image of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was taken on May 19, 2009 after deployment during Servicing Mission 4. NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope has experienced ongoing problems with one of its three remaining gyroscopes, so NASA has decided to shift the telescope into single gyro mode. While the venerable space telescope has now returned to daily science operations, single gyro mode means Hubble will only use one gyro to maintain a lock on its target. This will slow its slew time and decrease some of its scientific output. But this plan increases the overall lifetime of the 34-year-old telescope, keeping one gyro in reserve. NASA is also troubleshooting the malfunctioning gyro, hoping to return it online.

Continue reading “Hubble's Back, but Only Using One Gyro”

It’s Time for Hardworking Hubble to Slow Down a Little

Thirty-four years is a long time for a telescope. Yet, that is how long the veteran workhorse of NASA’s space telescope fleet has been operating. Admittedly, Hubble was served by several repair missions during the space shuttle era. Still, the system has been floating in the void and taking some of humanity’s most breathtaking pictures ever captured since April 24th, 1990. But now, time seems to be finally catching up with it, as NASA plans to limit some of its operations to ensure its continued life, starting with gyroscopes. 

Continue reading “It’s Time for Hardworking Hubble to Slow Down a Little”

Uh oh. Hubble's Having Gyro Problems Again

Hubble Space Telescope
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope flies with Earth in the background after a 2002 servicing mission. Credit: NASA.

The Hubble Space Telescope has gone through its share of gyroscopes in its 34-year history in space. Astronauts replaced the gyros during the last servicing mission in 2009, bringing it back up to six (three with three spares), but they only last so long. Last week, HST went into safe mode because one of the gyros experienced fluctuations in power. NASA paused the telescope’s science operations today to investigate the fluctuations and perhaps come up with a fix.

With this one gyro experiencing problems, only two of the gyros remain fully operational. HST works best with three gyros, and so engineers are working to understand the issue and hopefully figure out a way to fix it remotely. However, several years ago, engineers figured out a way to still conduct science operations with only a single gyro.

Continue reading “Uh oh. Hubble's Having Gyro Problems Again”

Webb Continues to Confirm That Universe is Behaving Strangely

Image of NGC 5468, a galaxy located about 130 million light-years from Earth, combines data from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/A. Riess (JHU/STScI)

Over a century ago, astronomers Edwin Hubble and Georges Lemaitre independently discovered that the Universe was expanding. Since then, scientists have attempted to measure the rate of expansion (known as the Hubble-Lemaitre Constant) to determine the origin, age, and ultimate fate of the Universe. This has proved very daunting, as ground-based telescopes yielded huge uncertainties, leading to age estimates of anywhere between 10 and 20 billion years! This disparity between these measurements, produced by different techniques, gave rise to what is known as the Hubble Tension.

It was hoped that the aptly named Hubble Space Telescope (launched in 1990) would resolve this tension by providing the deepest views of the Universe to date. After 34 years of continuous service, Hubble has managed to shrink the level of uncertainty but not eliminate it. This led some in the scientific community to suggest (as an Occam’s Razor solution) that Hubble‘s measurements were incorrect. But according to the latest data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Hubble’s successor, it appears that the venerable space telescope’s measurements were right all along.

Continue reading “Webb Continues to Confirm That Universe is Behaving Strangely”

It's Time for Jupiter's Annual Checkup by Hubble

Jupiter as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope on January 5 and 6, 2024. Credit: NASA/ESA/Space Telescope Science Institute.

Each year, the Hubble Space Telescope focuses on the giant planets in our Solar System when they’re near the closest point to Earth, which means they’ll be large and bright in the sky. Jupiter had its photos taken on January 5-6th, 2024, showing off both sides of the planet. Hubble was looking for storm activity and changes in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Continue reading “It's Time for Jupiter's Annual Checkup by Hubble”

Now You Can See Exactly Where Hubble and JWST are Pointed

Graphics of the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes. Credit: NASA/STScI.

Hubble and JWST are busily scanning the sky, sending home enormous amounts of data. They shift from target to target, completing the required observations.

But have you ever wondered what those two space telescopes are doing right at this moment? Now, you can do just that at the new Space Telescope Live website. It will show you what each observatory is scanning, where the objects are in the sky, and what researchers hope to learn. You can even go back or forward in time and see what each telescope has been looking at in the past or what observations are coming up.

Continue reading “Now You Can See Exactly Where Hubble and JWST are Pointed”

This Strange-Looking Galaxy is Actually Two. And They're Merging

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features Arp 122, a peculiar galaxy that in fact comprises two galaxies – NGC 6040, the tilted, warped spiral galaxy and LEDA 59642, the round, face-on spiral – that are in the midst of a collision. ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton, Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA Acknowledgement: L. Shatz

This strange-looking galaxy seems to be a spiral with a long tidal tail stretching away. It’s known as Arp 122, and it’s actually not just one galaxy, but two separate galaxies. NGC 6040 is the warped spiral galaxy seen edge-on, while LEDA 59642 is the round, face-on spiral. The two are colliding about 540 million light-years from Earth, and it gives us a preview of the Milky Way’s future collision with Andromeda.

This image was taken by the venerable Hubble Space Telescope

What will Arp 122 look like when the merger is complete? We’ll try to keep you posted, but this ongoing merger will take hundreds of millions of years, so be patient.

Continue reading “This Strange-Looking Galaxy is Actually Two. And They're Merging”

JWST and Chandra Team Up for a Stunning View of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A

This image of Cassiopeia A comes from a combination of data from the Chandra X-ray telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Milisavljevic et al., NASA/JPL/CalTech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Schmidt and K. Arcand

NASA’s long-lived Chandra X-ray Observatory teamed up with JWST for the first time, producing this incredibly detailed image of the famous supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. JWST first looked at the remnant in April 2023, and noticed an unusual debris structure from the destroyed star, dubbed the “Green Monster.” The combined view has helped astronomers better understand what this unusual structure is, plus it uncovered new details about the explosion that created Cas A.

Continue reading “JWST and Chandra Team Up for a Stunning View of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A”

It’s Time for Saturn’s “Spokes” to Return

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope photo of Saturn reveals the planet's cloud bands and a phenomenon called ring spokes. NASA, ESA, STScI, Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)

Astronomers have been observing Saturn with the Hubble Space Telescope and several other spacecraft for decades and have noticed something unusual. During seasonal changes, transient spoke-like features appear in the rings. These dark, ghostly blobs orbit around the planet 2-3 times, and then disappear.

As Saturn is approaching its equinox, this is prime spoke activity time. Once again, Hubble has been called to gaze at Saturn, tracking the behavior of the spokes and hopefully giving astronomers more clues as to why they occur.

Continue reading “It’s Time for Saturn’s “Spokes” to Return”