Hubble, thank you for proving our worth to us

Hubble, thank you for proving our worth to us ...

On a visit to the Space Telescope Science Institute in the early 1990s, Dave Meyer received an urgent message.

This has to be seen.

Scientists onlookers grew aware of their breathing as images were being downloaded on closely monitored computers as elsewhere in the building. What is this, anyway? Meyer asked, aware of an echo. He found himself staring at dark background scattered with deceptively small galaxies that his brain simply cannot grasp.

The Hubble Space Telescope had begun to reveal the vast universe. It was startling.

Meyer, a Northwestern University professor studying Hubble findings, found that there were many galaxies that appeared to be different from what you might expect from an astronomer's imagination. Thats when Meyer realized what he was looking at.

a telescope wed just flung into space provided visual proof of our universe's evolution. That really blew me away, according to the speaker. At the time, humanity was as far as it could see.

NASA released its first deep field image shortly after, in 1995, which revealed a menagerie of galaxies far, far away. That very first Hubble deep field image was revolutionary, according to Morgan Van Arsdall, the Hubble Space Telescope's program director.

In 1995, a high-resolution version of Hubbles First deep field was captured over the course of ten days. These aren't just stars you see, they're entire galaxies.

NASA, R. Williams (STScI), the Hubble Deep Field Team

And for the next 27 years, as we learn more, Hubble would be the name we would refer to almost every astonishing object of the faraway cosmos that is revealed to us.

Then came July 11, 2022, the day we managed to go even further and see even deeper. But this time, Hubble wasnt invited.

The James Webb Space Telescope is a great space telescope.

NASA dominated headlines in almost every news publication just last week. Thats because US President Joe Biden had awkwardly pointed at a magnificent, decades-old deep field enhanced by the agency's brilliant James Webb Space Telescope.

Then, a day after that stunning broadcast, there were more JWST pictures to be amazed at. I believe I verbally uttered some phrases your editor would not find fit to print, and Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University, told me of seeing these pictures for the first time, a reaction I'd wager reaches many people.

JWST is constructed to live a million miles from Earth and reveal the invisible, unlike Hubble, which was built to stand 340 miles above our atmosphere and reveal the visible universe. These images were captured by its ability to see things with infrared light, which is otherwise unknown to humans.

It was a wonderful week for astronomy.

We may wish to reflect on what we have done to Hubble over the past several days, in the midst of our celebrations.

Weve openly cast our once-vanished, beloved telescope as a gaunt before model to demonstrate JWSTs' beauty after transformation. Im guilty of it too. Hundreds of articles, Reddit threads, and Twitter posts are dedicated to this very concept, and although this isnt without reason, it seems to have created a false narrative.

With the Cosmic Reef image of two nebulae, NASA and ESA commemorated the Hubble Space Telescopes' 30th anniversary in 2020.

NASA, ESA, and STScI are all members of the STScI program.

As we prepare for an inevitable influx of JWST masterpieces, it bears remembering that without Hubble, we wouldn't have accessed NASAs after images at all. Research is defined by what Hubble saw, and this left us thinking about what we might learn if we saw just a little more, according to Caplan.

And, although it may feel like it, Hubble is certainly not dead.

Nikole Lewis, a Cornell University astronomer, believes that Hubble will be needed forever. She is currently attempting to budget for a substantial treasury program on Hubble. She is interested in studying exoplanets and intends to use visible and ultraviolet light wavelengths to deciphering clouds and hazes of other natural worlds that JWST isnt sensitive to.

The Tarantula Nebula is seen in this 2017 Hubble image as a series of bizarre bubble-like structures. The more innocent Honeycomb Nebula is shown below.

Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla) is the author of ESA/Hubble/NASA's acknowledgements.

Despite JWSTs' clout, Hubble is also the leading candidate for studying galaxies moving along the X or Y axis, rather than the Z axis, according to Caplan. While galactic motion toward and away from Earth is very straightforward to measure with redshift, a JWST specialty, side to side motion is harder.

In fact, this unique Hubble power turns out to be the basis for discovering a pretty substantial amount about galaxies. Many of them are on a crash course right now.

JWSTs predecessor measured how the light on individual pixels traveled from one point to the next, and demonstrating that this galaxy isn't just orbiting ours. They will also collide, according to Caplan.

A cropped version of the Hubble image of Andromeda showing more than 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxys pancake-shaped disc, which spans over 40,000 light-years. You'll need more than 600 HD television screens to display the entire image.

NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and L.C. Johnson (University of Washington), as well as R. Gendler and the PHAT team

Regardless, all of this is to say that as JWST continues to engulf the internet with colorful depictions of outer reaches, we should remember that it isnt Hubble's replacement. JWST is its replacement. It'll work in tandem with Hubble and would not exist in a world without it.

Van Arsdall said the JWST science program will build on the Hubble science legacy of more than three decades. In a sense, the JWST has a giants shoulder to stand on. Hubble had only the unknown.

This is what you'll see if you zoom in to any section of that Andromeda image.

Monisha Ravisetti/NASA shooter

The people's telescope

Hubbles azure nebulae and ebony-streaked deep fields have unambiguously impacted the careers of most scientists, including the team that created NASA's shiny new JWST.

When I was growing up, the Hubble deep field image was inspiring to me, according to Jason Rabinovitch, a former Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer and professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. It contributed to what would continue to be a lifelong fascination with space and space exploration.

Hubbles' eyes were fixed by a 1993 space shuttle mission. From left, the spiral galaxy M100 is seen in before and after pictures.

NASA is in a position to provide guidance on the future.

Even Hubbles' rocky, rather anxiety-inducing beginnings served as a motivation for humanity to marvel at the cosmos. When the silver space telescope was unveiled in 1990, everyone was so eager to see what it could see without being distracted by the Earth's atmosphere.

Then the first images came back. According to Meyer, it appeared like a disaster.

All of Hubble's main pictures were blurry. Nothing like JWSTs Carina Nebula, worthy of being Apples default desktop screensaver, or Stephans Quintet, which drew a tear out of me. It turned out to be an issue with the scopes lens, which had already been blasted into space. Things were bad. Everyone was stressed. However, NASA did not have to deal with the situation head on.

Crews of astronauts would be sent aboard space shuttles to fix Hubble. In space. People could see this in real time, Meyer said. They could see NASA astronauts in space, spacewalking, or fixing a telescope. It was moments like this that earned Hubble a lovely nickname in its early days: The peoples' telescope.

And that was the case.

Images obtained within weeks of the Hubble Space Telescope's launch in 1990 revealed a serious flaw with the optical system. The primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape, resulting in image quality that was dramatically lower than expected. Here, astronauts work on installing Hubbles corrective optics during STS-61 Servicing Mission 1.

NASA is a scientific corporation based in the United States.

Van Arsdall said he became interested in the Shuttle program when he was growing up. That was certainly part of my motivation to become an aerospace engineer.

Story Musgrave, a NASA astronaut who is anchored on the Remote Manipulator System arm, prepares to climb to the top of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993 to install protective covers on the magnetometers.

Getty Images

Stargazing is a pleasure for human eyes.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a gigantic cylinder that appears to be covered in Reynolds Wrap, is a cultural icon. Its purpose permeates movies, books, photography, visual art, television, and, perhaps, wedding vows.

Lewis said that as a kid, you can see that there are Hubble images on these screens all around. I just like to be outdoors. The best way to get around in space was through the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble's Eagle Nebulas Pillars of Creation are seen in visible light. This is taken with infrared light which penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas to reveal a less familiar view.

NASA, ESA, Hubble, and the Hubble Heritage Team are all members of NASA's Hubble Heritage Team.

But for humans who collectively account for only a tiny fraction of space, it's not a new phenomenon. It's much more satisfying to fantasize about our existence when reality is a fantasy.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night from 1889 is an artist's impression of a glistening evening sky, which is based heavily on Prussian Blue pigment.

Johann Conrad Dippel, who discovered the original blue sky in the 1700s, was in awe because he believed he had discovered the original hue in the sky. However, Dippel did not make up his mind. He was referring to the legendary tint Ancient Egyptians mused about.

Our space obsession dates back centuries, and will continue to exist for centuries to come. Just Hubble and even JWST, for that matter, enabled our obsession. During the planning of Hubbles servicing missions, NASA expressed honest concerns about whether or not it would be safe to send astronauts up there to repair it. But the public demanded it, according to Meyer.

From April 24-29, 1990, NASA mission crew members monitored the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment check procedures from the Space Shuttle Discovery and Orbiter Vehicle.

Archives/Getty Images of Space Frontiers

Neil Rowlands, an engineering fellow at Honeywell Aerospace, said of the day he saw the JWST's first results. The only good news article in the entire paper was the one on the JWST images.

Rowlands has been developing JWST for almost 25 years, and as he points out, I have been working with [its] optical performance numbers for so long I lost touch with what these numbers actually mean in terms of stunning image quality, at least until I saw the stunning images.

But as we watch the legacy of our new space exploration friends unfold, we may want to remember that its story is a continuation of the one Hubble initiated when it was launched in 1990.

We should not allow Hubbles to conclude with a bang, even if it started with a bang.

Meyer said the company isn't shutting Hubble down. We're still thinking that's some time away.

Hubble, please accept my sincere gratitude.

Getty Images

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