Pictures have been released from the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope, and they are glorious. NASA gave Hubble one more roll of the dice when it sent STS-125 on a servicing and calibration mission to get a few more years out of the old girl.
To be honest, I thought it’d be more economical to make a new space telescope since each Shuttle mission costs about half a billion dollars. There’s been five servicing missions (named Missions 1, 2, 3A, 3B and 4), so a goodly sum has been spent. Hubble is a few months short of 20 years old and was built using late 70s and 80s technology. Surely a new platform designed from the ground up with 21st century technology would be cheaper and yeild even better results? At any rate, the pictures are in and will continue for at least another 4 or 5 years.
It’s funny. You live in the universe, but you never do these things until someone comes to visit.
From the press release:
Hubble now enters a phase of full science observations. The demand for
observing time will be intense. Observations will range from studying
the population of Kuiper Belt objects at the fringe of our solar
system to surveying the birth of planets around other stars and
probing the composition and structure of extrasolar planet
atmospheres. There are ambitious plans to take the deepest-ever
near-infrared portrait of the universe to reveal never-before-seen
infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500
million years old. Other planned observations will attempt to shed
light on the behavior of dark energy, a repulsive force that is
pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.
See some of the latest images here.
See a comparison of a previous shot at the same location to the new shot in the above thumbnail here.