Why Is NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Not a Hubbles Replacement?

Why Is NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Not a Hubbles Replacement? ...

When Dave Meyer received an urgent message on a visit to the Space Telescope Science Institute in the early 1990s, he said, "I'm sorry."

This must be seen.

Scientist onlookers became conscious of their breathing as he scanned images and downloaded them onto closely monitored computers outside the building. What is this? Meyer exclaimed, aware of an echo. He began looking at dark backgrounds scattered with tiny galaxies that his brain simply cannot grasp.

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

Meyer, a Northwestern University professor who specializes on Hubble findings, said that there were many galaxies that did not appear like wispy spirals or ellipticals typical of realms closer to ours. Thats when he realized what he was looking at.

This was visual proof of our universes' evolution, thanks to a telescope wed just flung into space. That really surprised me, he said. At the time, humanity had seen as far as it could see.

In 1995, Hubble set a new record when NASA publicly released its first deep field photograph. A seemingly blank section of the sky had turned out to be a menagerie of galaxies far, far away, according to Morgan Van Arsdall, the Hubble Space Telescope's program manager. That very first Hubble deep field photo was revolutionary, according to Morgan Van Arsdall, the Hubble Space Telescope's senior program manager.

Hubbles First deep field, taken in 1995 at a high resolution. These aren't stars you see; these are whole galaxies.

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

As we develop further, Hubble would be the name associated with nearly every stunning detail of the remote cosmos that we see.

Then came July 11, 2022, the day we managed to go even further and see even deeper. Without Hubble.

James Webb Space Telescope is a pleasure to welcome you.

NASA dominated the headlines of several news outlets just last week. That's because US President Joe Biden had awkwardly pointed at a stunning, decades-old deep field enhanced by the agency's brilliant James Webb Space Telescope.

Then, a day after that jaw-dropping broadcast, there were still more JWST images to fawn over. 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 resonates with many.

JWST is designed to live a million miles from Earth and reveal the invisible, not Hubble. This was done due to a search for invisible light that was unobservable to human eyes, otherwise known as infrared light. Across the world, emotion highs ensued.

It was a wonderful week for astronomy.

In the midst of our celebrations, we may wish to think about what we have done to Hubble over the past several days.

Weve openly cast our once-famous telescope as a gaunt before model to demonstrate how beautiful JWSTs are after transformation. Im guilty of it too. Hundreds of articles, Reddit threads, and Twitter posts are dedicated to this exact 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 Telescope's 30th anniversary.

NASA, ESA, and STScI are all involved in this project.

This is why, as we prepare for an inevitable surge of JWST masterpieces, we should remember that without Hubble, we wouldn't have accessed NASAs after images at all. Research is defined by what Hubble saw, and it left us speculating about what we might learn if we could see just a little more, according to Caplan.

And while Hubble may appear to be dead, he's certainly not.

Nikole Lewis, a Cornell University astronomer, believes that Hubble will always be needed. She is planning to fund a large-scale treasury program on Hubble. She is interested in studying exoplanets and will investigate alien worlds with visible and ultraviolet light wavelengths. JWST isnt sensitive to that kind of light.

The Tarantula Nebula Nebula's spidery filaments are shown in this 2017 Hubble panorama. Look closely in the lower left corner and youll see a series of bubblelike structures that make up the more innocently named Honeycomb Nebula.

Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla) acknowledgements from ESA/Hubble and NASA

Despite JWST's clout, Hubble remains the top choice 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 easy to measure with redshift, a JWST specialty, side to side motion is harder.

This unique Hubble power turns out to be the way we discovered a fairly substantial amount about galaxies. Many of them are on a crash course right now.

JWSTs predecessor examined Andromeda over the years, proving that our universe extends beyond the Milky Way, and comparing how the light on individual pixels changed from one to the other, and Caplan explained that this galaxy will collide. Would JWST have discovered that?

A cropped portion of the Hubble image of Andromeda showing more than 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy's pancake-shaped disc, which spans over more than 40,000 light years.

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

Nevertheless, all of this is to say that as JWST continues to flood the internet with colorful images of outer reaches, we should remember that it isnt Hubble's replacement. JWST is the one that will 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. Hubble had only the unknown.

This is what you see when you zoom in to a section of that Andromeda picture.

Monisha Ravisetti/NASA screens shot

The people's telescope

Hubbles' azure nebulae and ebony-streaked deep fields have unambiguously influenced the careers of virtually every physicist, including the folks who developed NASAs 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 Stevens Institute of Technology. It contributed to what would become a lifelong fascination with space and space exploration.

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

NASA is a NASA satellite station.

Even Hubble's rocky, rather anxiety-inducing beginnings served as a reason for humanity to marvel at the cosmos. When the silver space telescope was launched in 1990, everyone was so excited to see what it could see without being obstructed by the Earth's atmosphere.

Then the first photographs returned. According to Meyer, it appeared to be a disaster.

Everything in Hubbles's primary imagery was blurry. Nothing like JWST's 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 been blasted into space already. Things were bad. Everyone was upset. However, NASA was able to respond quickly.

NASA 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 people's telescope.

And it was.

Images taken during the Hubble Space Telescope's first service mission 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 significantly lower than expected. Here, astronauts work on installing Hubbles corrective optics during STS-61 Servicing Mission 1.

NASA is the first agency to produce scientific data.

Van Arsdall said she was fascinated with the Shuttle program her whole life. That was definitely part of my desire to become an aerospace engineer.

Story Musgrave, 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

Hubble, thank you for granting us the stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a massive cylinder that appears to be dressed in Reynolds Wrap, is a cultural icon. Its purpose encompasses movies, books, photography, visual art, television, and even wedding vows. As Caplan puts it, it is a gigantic structure that defines the present age.

Lewis said that I was one of those kids who saw Star Trek and that you can see that Hubble images are everywhere. I just like to be outdoors. The best way to do that was really through the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble's Eagle Nebulas Pillars of Creation are shown in visible light. Right: This one is taken in infrared light which penetrates much of the hidden dust and gas, giving us a different perspective.

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

But falling in love with space, for humans who collectively account for just a tiny fraction of it, isnt a new phenomenon. It's much more thrilling to fantasize about our lives when reality feels like a fantasy.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night from 1889 is an artist's interpretation of a sparkling evening canopy, which he's heavily influenced by Prussian Blue pigment.

Johann Conrad Dippel, who discovered the original blue sky in the 1700s, was ecstatic because he believed he had discovered the original color of the sky. He was talking about the legendary hue Egyptians mused about.

Our space obsession dates back centuries and will continue to exist for generations to come. Hubble and JWST, for that matter, provided our fascination with the object. 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.

Between April 24-29, 1990, NASA mission crew members were monitoring the Hubble Space Telescope deployment checkout procedures from the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Orbiter Vehicle.

Archives/Getty Images for Space Frontiers

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

Rowlands has been working with JWST for over 25 years, and he also points out, I've been working with [its] optical performance numbers for so long I've lost touch with what these numbers actually mean in terms of exquisite image quality, at least until I saw the fantastic images.

We may wish to keep in mind that Hubble's latest space exploration friendships are inspired by the ones that were launched in 1990.

The James Webb Space Telescopes story began with a bang, but we shouldn't allow Hubbles to conclude with a whimper. They're not shutting Hubble down, according to Meyer.

We still believe that the end of the Great Recession will be a decade away.

Hubble, thank you.

Getty Images

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