Hubble back in business
Jan 26, 2000
The first images from the newly repaired Hubble Space Telescope have been released. NASA launched an emergency rescue mission to fix Hubble last month after the failure of a gyroscope caused the telescope to shut down. To check the repairs astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, pointed the telescope at two targets, NGC 2392, the so-called Eskimo Nebula, and a massive cluster of galaxies called Abell 2218.
Eskimo Nebula is 5000 light years from Earth and resembles a face inside a furry parka when viewed from ground-based telescopes. Hubble resolved the 'hood' into a disk of material containing a ring of comet-shaped objects, with their tails streaming away from the central, dying star. The 'face' of the nebula was resolved into an expanding high speed cloud of material being blown into space by the central star.
The second target, Abell 2218, has such a large gravitational mass that it magnifies the light of more distant galaxies far behind it. "For the first time we can view the internal colour structure of some very distant galaxies," said Richard Ellis of the University of Cambridge in the UK. "This gives us new insight into details of what young galaxies are like." The cluster is at least 2 billion light years from Earth in the constellation Draco.
"It is a tremendous boost to all of astronomy to see Hubble back in action," said Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "NASA has restored the observatory to a condition that is better than it was even before the fourth gyroscope failed." A further repair mission is scheduled for 2001.