Hubble fans, rejoice. After more than a month with its camera eye closed, the famed Hubble Space Telescope is snapping photos of the cosmos once more.
The iconic (and aging) space observatory resumed science operations Saturday (July 17) after weeks of slumber while NASA engineers scrambled to fix a computer glitch. That work paid off with this photo, which shows two of the first new images from Hubble since its computer woes began.
“I’m thrilled to see that Hubble has its eye back on the universe, once again capturing the kind of images that have intrigued and inspired us for decades,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “This is a moment to celebrate the success of a team truly dedicated to the mission.” NASA and the European Space Agency launched the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990.
The black-and-white images show different galactic views. On the left is an object called ARP-MADORE2115-273, which is actually two different galaxies caught in an intergalactic tango. It’s about 297 million light-years from Earth.
“Astronomers had previously thought this was a “collisional ring” system due to the head-on merger of two galaxies,” NASA wrote in an image description. “The new Hubble observations show that the ongoing interaction between the galaxies is far more complex, leaving behind a rich network of stars and dusty gas.”
The second view from Hubble (in the right side of the image) shows ARP-MADORE0002-503, a large spiral galaxy located about 490 million light-years from Earth. If you thought this was just another spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way, think again.
“Its arms extend out to a radius of 163,000 light-years, making it three times more expansive than our Milky Way Galaxy,” NASA wrote. “While most disk galaxies have an even number of spiral arms, this one has three.”
The new views from Hubble are just two images from a series of test photos as NASA and the European Space Agency work to reboot the space telescope.
Hubble went offline on June 13 after its main payload computer went offline, sending the observatory into a protective “safe mode” during which time all science was stopped. After weeks of troubleshooting, engineers traced the glitch to a wonky circuit between Hubble’s Power Control Unit and the payload computer and managed to reactive the observatory by switching to a backup computer.
Since then, Hubble scientists and engineers are snapping test images of galaxies, globular clusters and auroras on Jupiter.
“I’ll confess to having had a few nervous moments during Hubble’s shutdown, but I also had faith in NASA’s amazing engineers and technicians,” astronomer Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington in Seattle, who led the program that captured the new photos, said in a statement. “Everyone is incredibly grateful, and we’re excited to get back to science!”
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