The Hubble Space Telescope has reflected back new images of galaxies that NASA describes as “special”.
The images are Hubble’s first since rebooting after a month-long downtime in which scientists feared they would have lost the spacecraft forever.
ARP-MADORE2115-273 (left) is a rarely observed pair of colliding galaxies in the southern hemisphere. These Hubble observations offer Hubble’s first high-resolution glimpse into this fascinating system. ARP-MADORE0002-503 (right) is a large spiral galaxy with unusual, elongated spiral arms 490 million light years away. Its arms extend over a radius of 163,000 light years, making them three times the size of our Milky Way. Credits: Science: NASA, ESA, STScI, Julianne Dalcanton (UW) Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Fortunately, a fix was released last week that will allow Hubble to get back to work. On Monday, NASA announced the first images since the Hubble revival, both of which show distant galaxies as part of a University of Washington project to measure “strange galaxies scattered across the sky.”
The image on the left actually shows two galaxies known collectively as ARP-MADORE2115-273 – no, it doesn’t have the catchiest name – and is described by NASA as a rare example of an interacting galaxy pair in the southern hemisphere.
“These Hubble observations offer Hubble’s first high-resolution look at this fascinating system, which is 297 million light years away,” said the space agency. Astronomers originally believed this was a “collision ring system” due to the frontal merging of two galaxies, but Hubble’s data shows that the continued interaction between galaxies is much more complex, leading to what NASA calls “a rich network” marked by stars and dusty gas. “
Meanwhile, the image on the right shows ARP-MADORE0002-503 (another easy-to-remember name!), Which the space agency calls “a large spiral galaxy with unusual, elongated spiral arms”. The galaxy is about 490 million light years from Earth and its arms extend over a radius of 163,000 light years, making it three times larger than our Milky Way, NASA said, adding that this one is characterized by three spirals while the arms most disk galaxies usually have an even number.
Hubble is as long as a big school bus and was launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. The powerful telescope orbits about 547 km above the earth and, free of the atmosphere of our planet, which can block light from space, emits back incredible images from distant places in our universe.
A mysterious bug took the Hubble Space Telescope offline in June, sparking a tremendous effort by scientists to revive the 31-year-old spacecraft. Over the weekend, the team managed to restart Hubble’s onboard scientific instruments by switching to backup hardware.
University of Washington project leader Julianne Dalcanton commented on Hubble’s recent glitch: “I admit I had a few nervous moments during the Hubble shutdown, but I also had confidence in the great engineers and technicians at NASA.”
Dalcanton added, “Everyone is incredibly grateful and we look forward to getting back into science.”