Hubble – The Floating Marvel- Part- II
Hubble is the only space telescope designed to be serviced by astronauts. This also favors the possibility to upgrade the equipment on board based on necessities. Thanks to this unique feature COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Replacement) system was designed and was installed in the first servicing mission during 1993. There have been regular missions dedicated to both repairs and new installations. Hubble telescope houses many other spectrographs, various cameras and sensors on board. Many of them were either added or upgraded during successive servicing space missions.
From time to time Hubble almost had newer versions and was equipped with advanced instruments that had state of the art technology behind them. For example while Hubble was initially launched it only had tapes to store the collected data which on consecutive service missions replaced with CCD (Charge Coupled Devices). Numerous additions like these only improved the performance of the telescope over years. Thanks to the recent Hollywood hit ‘Gravity’ by Alphonso Cuarón, everyone have had a closer look of the Hubble as the plot of the entire film begins with a servicing missions to the telescope; the progression of the film was frightening, though.
From the altitude where Hubble is housed it can only have a low earth orbit makes the orbit period if the telescope at about 96 min (about 14 cycles per day). As Hubble is free from the clutters of the wobbling atmosphere, unlike any other terrestrial telescope, it is capable of sensing the even faintest lights from distant galaxies and stars. Hubble had indeed changed the idea about the size of the Universe and our scientific perception of the vastness of it. It proved that the universe is actually much bigger than we ever imagined and with Hubble scientists were able to look much deeper into space.
The control station for the telescope is located at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore. STScI is responsible for the scientific operation of the telescope. Also it is the center where all the data received from Hubble are archived from where the astronomical data for astronomers is delivered. Currently Hubble sends about 120 gigabytes of data weekly, to Tracking and Data Relay Satellite which downlinks it to earth.
On July 1994 Shoemaker Levy-9, a comet which broke into fragments (21 pieces in all) collided with Jupiter. This celestial event found wide coverage across world media that rose lot of curiosity amid sky watch enthusiasts. Luckily Hubble had got COSTAR shortly before this event. This had improved the imaging quality of the telescope. Hubble took pictures of this event with stunning details. Those were the best images made ever since by Voyager spacecraft flew over the gas giant back in 1979.
Other noteworthy achievements of Hubble telescope are Hubble Deep Field, Hubble Ultra Deep Field and Hubble’s Extreme deep Field images. These images opened new windows of the hitherto seen Universe to the astronomers throwing light on the farthest galaxies those were formed at the brink of birth of the Universe, about 13 billion years ago. Hubble deep field is an image of a small region in the constellation Ursa Major. It contained about 3000 celestial objects in a small focused field of the space. The image was actually a composite image of 342 separate exposures made by Hubble’s deep field camera over a period of 11 days between 18 and 28, Dec 1995. With further upgrades Hubble became more and more capacious of probing deeper space. This has helped scientists to spot multitudes of galaxies which were hitherto unknown. While looking back the Hubble data we find notable positive effect on the academic side. Upon pondering over the data provided by Hubble, one might understand it raises more questions than the solutions and insights it had offered for the existing questions on astrophysics. Indeed that is how a scientific journey progresses, like a never ending quest.