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Telescope Friday: Hubble’s Final Pic With WFPC2 – Planetary Nebula K 4-55

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(Above) Planetary Nebula K 4-55, Kohoutek 4-55

The Hubble community bids farewell to the  decommissioned Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. In tribute to Hubble’s longest-running optical camera, a planetary nebula was imaged as WFPC2′s final “pretty picture.”

This planetary nebula is known as Kohoutek 4-55 (or K 4-55). It is one of a series of planetary nebulae that were named after their discoverer, Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek. A planetary nebula contains the outer layers of a red giant star that were expelled into interstellar space when the star was in the late stages of its life. Ultraviolet radiation emitted from the remaining hot core of the star ionizes the ejected gas shells, causing them to glow.

In the specific case of K 4-55, a bright inner ring is surrounded by a bipolar structure. The entire system is then surrounded by a faint red halo, seen in the emission by nitrogen gas. This multi-shell structure is fairly uncommon in planetary nebulae.

planetary-nebula-k-4-55-chart

This Hubble image was taken by WFPC2 on May 4, 2009. The colors represent the makeup of the various emission clouds in the nebula: red represents nitrogen, green represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen. K 4-55 is nearly 4,600 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus.

The WFPC2 instrument, which was installed in 1993 to replace the original Wide Field/Planetary Camera, was removed to make room for Wide Field Camera 3 during the final Hubble Servicing Mission.

During the camera’s amazing, nearly 16-year run, WFPC2 provided outstanding science and spectacular images of the cosmos. Some of its best-remembered images are of the Eagle Nebula pillars, Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9′s impacts on Jupiter’s atmosphere, and the 1995 Hubble Deep Field — the longest and deepest Hubble optical image of its time.

The scientific and inspirational legacy of WFPC2 will be felt by astronomers and the public alike, for as long as the story of the Hubble Space Telescope is told.

WFPC2 was developed and built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.


Hubble Space Telescope Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

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(Above)  This is Hubble’s first science observation following its repair and upgrade in May. The size of the impactor is estimated to be as large as several football fields.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory’s checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter’s atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

“Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble,” said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success.

“This image of the impact on Jupiter is fantastic,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. “It tells us that our astronauts and the ground crew at the Goddard Space Flight Center successfully repaired the Hubble telescope. I’m so proud of them and I can’t wait to see what’s next from Hubble.”

For the past several days, Earth-based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

“Hubble’s truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site,” Hammel said. “By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris.”

Simon-Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Siberian Tunguska River Valley in June 1908.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3. The new camera, installed by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis in May, is not yet fully calibrated. While it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera’s full power has yet to be seen.

“This is just one example of what Hubble’s new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “However, the best is yet to come.”


SPACE WALLPAPER: The Boomerang Nebula

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The Boomerang Nebula is a young planetary nebula and the coldest object found in the Universe so far.  It is in the constellation of Centaurus, 5000 light-years from Earth.

DOWNLOAD FULL SIZE WALLPAPER


Telescope Friday: Celestial Geode

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In this unusual image, the Hubble Space Telescope captures a rare view of the celestial equivalent of a geode – a gas cavity carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from a young hot star.

Real geodes are handball-sized, hollow rocks that start out as bubbles in volcanic or sedimentary rock. Only when these inconspicuous round rocks are split in half by a geologist, do we get a chance to appreciate the inside of the rock cavity that is lined with crystals. In the case of Hubble’s 35 light-year diameter “celestial geode” the transparency of its bubble-like cavity of interstellar gas and dust reveals the treasures of its interior.


Space Shuttle Atlantis Landing Delayed by Weather

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Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew will stay in space another day after bad weather prevented them from landing Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA Flight Director Norm Knight and the entry team will evaluate weather conditions at Kennedy before permitting the shuttle to land. If the weather is not acceptable for a return to Kennedy, the team will look to land at the secondary landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California. White Sands Space Harbor is not expected to be activated tomorrow.

Sunday Landing Opportunities (All Times Eastern)
10:11 a.m. Orbit 196 landing at Kennedy (deorbit burn at 8:58 a.m.)
11:40 a.m. Orbit 197 landing at Edwards (deorbit burn at 10:25 a.m.)
11:49 a.m. Orbit 197 landing at Kennedy (deorbit burn at 10:31 a.m.)
1:19 p.m. Orbit 198 landing at Edwards (deorbit burn at 12:08 p.m.)


SPACE TRASH: Disposing of Hubble’s Old Solar Arrays

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(Above) Astronaut Kathy Thornton jettisons a damaged solar array panel into space during Hubble’s first servicing mission in 1993. When the solar panels were replaced, astronauts found a bend in the casing of this panel. The panel couldn’t be returned safely to Earth, and was released into space. Eventually the panel descend into Earth’s atmosphere, where the friction created by the speed of its fall burned it up.

Hubble’s solar panels generate power for the telescope by converting sunlight into electricity. The arrays power the telescope and charge its batteries while Hubble is in sunlight. When Hubble moves into the dark portion of its orbit, the batteries provide power.


President Barack Obama calls the crew of Atlantis

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President Barack Obama talks on the telephone to the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-125) from the Oval Office, Wednesday, May 20, 2009.  STS-125 is the final Space Shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Listen to the audio of the call (mp3)

Official White House photo by Pete Souza.


The First Lunar Observatory

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The first, and so far only, lunar astronomical observatory was deployed by the Apollo 16 crew in 1972. The Far Ultraviolet Camera / Spectrograph used a 3-inch diameter Schmidt telescope to photograph the Earth, nebulae, star clusters, and the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The tripod mounted astronomical equipment seen above, placed in the shadow of the Lunar Module (right) so it would not overheat. Also in the shadow is astronaut Charles Duke with the lunar rover in the background.

The Far Ultraviolet Camera took pictures in ultraviolet light which would normally be blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. It was created by George Carruthers (NRL), had a field of view of twenty degrees, and could detect stars having visual magnitude brighter than eleven.

One hundred seventy-eight images were recorded in a film cartridge which the astronauts returned to Earth. The observatory still stands on the Moon today.

Source: NASA


Shuttle Atlantis Silhouette During Solar Transit

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In this cropped image, Space Shuttle Atlantis is seen in silhouette during solar transit infront of the sun, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from Florida. This image was taken before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope.


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