BOOK TITLE: The Australia Times - Science magazine. Volume 3, issue 7

Vol. 3 No. 7
July 2015
We aim to inform, entertain, teach,
encourage, educate and support the
community at large by facilitating
communication between all Australians. By
providing the opportunity for all opinions
to be shared on a single website.
Practicing Without Practicing
Immunising Against the Vaccination Myth
Universe of Drama
The Hubble Space Telescope
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Margaret Gregory
Cover Image:
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), Hubble
Sees a Horsehead of a Dierent Color, Hubblesite, 2013,
Jonathan Robb | Margaret Gregory
Andrew Gatus | Victoria Ticha
Editor’s Note
Margaret Gregory
In the July issue of TAT Science,
Jonathan Robb has written a must read
article that debunks the myths about
adverse side effects of immunisation.
Andrew Gatus returns with a thought
provoking article on Motor Imagery,
a technique by which our minds can
practice known skills, inuencing the
body, when we have temporarily lost
the ability, or do not have the time, to
practice the skills physically.
Leading up to our feature article,
Victoria Ticha has written an insightful
article about our Universe of Drama.
This issue features the Hubble Space
Telescope, which this year celebrates
the 25
anniversary of its operational
life. From its initial launch to the
present, Hubble has travelled nearly
5 billion kilometres along its 560 km
high orbit around Earth and provided
data that has led to many incredible
discoveries. A mere few of the many
amazing images recorded by Hubble
are reproduced
A recent image of the iconic
Horsehead Nebula is featured on the
Read on to learn more. Enjoy!
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Welcome Note ............................................................... 5
Practicing Without Practicing ................................... 6
Immunising Against the Vaccination Myth ....... 12
Universe of Drama ..................................................... 22
The Hubble Space Telescope .................................. 26
Welcome Note
Welcome to The Australia Times Science Magazine.
The Science magazine is about presenting the science behind topical subjects,
natural phenomena, new developments, and aspects of our everyday life.
We aim to write in an easy to read style, not too basic, not too technical, so that
people of all ages and backgrounds might learn and be inspired.
Inside the TAT Science magazine, you will nd news, features and articles on
science topics, news on new scientic developments, information on how science
works. We will include contributor-generated articles about aspects of science, the
scientic community, organisations, science in the work place and the historical
development of science.
All the greatest discoveries have grown from a single idea, and the question of,
We plan to make a series of articles that will be archived into an encyclopedia of
scientic knowledge and in this way provide the seeds of ideas for new discoveries
of the future.
So grab your imagination and walk with us from the rst wheel to the maglev train,
from the oceans to the skies, from the science of the past to that of the future.
The Science magazine is a responsive publication and we encourage readers and
scientists alike to share your interests with us.
Feedback, suggestions and contributions are welcome.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
For most of us, the phrase practice makes perfect” conjures up all sorts of images
from our past, whether it be of our sports coaches expounding this mantra over and
over as we diligently honed our sporting skills, or of the time we nally mastered
the bicycle after hours and hours of practice. At some point, we’ve all come to the
realisation that to become procient at a physical task, we need to practice it again
and again. When a physical task can be performed repeatedly at an acceptable skill
level, continued practice ensures that this skill is not lost. No doubt this is a familiar
story to those who have attempted to ride a bike after years without having done
so. At rst, the task is not quite as uent as it once was, but with a bit of practice,
familiarity returns and we can successfully ride again with ease and comfort.
However, what do you do when theres simply not enough time in the day to practice
your beloved musical instrument or rene your tennis serve? Perhaps, due to injury,
you’re unable to perform some physical task for a signicant amount of time. It turns
out that simply imagining yourself doing these things can make you better at them.
Imagining the process of physical practice © Woodleywonkerworkd. Flickr
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
This phenomenon is termed motor imagery and has been used extensively in sports
training and rehabilitation programs. Essentially, the concept requires individuals to
simply imagine performing a specic physical task. The steps required to achieve
the task are mentally rehearsed with as much vividness as possible whilst ensuring
no physical movement occurs. These mental images can be visual representations
of oneself performing a skill as seen either from ones own point of view or from
an external point of view, or of the physical sensations of performing a movement
(kinesthetic motor imagery). For instance, soccer players may see themselves
standing in front of a goal post taking a penalty kick, whilst musicians may imagine
the sensation of their ngers as they practice scales on a piano; the concept can be
applied to almost any motor skill, including learning how to perform surgery. There
are two main eects of motor imagery: to prepare individuals for the execution of
a well-learned skill, or in the acquisition of a new skill. Its role in the former scenario
can be exemplied in the way a gymnast may mentally prepare for a routine by
visualising each part of the routine before physically performing it. This allows the
gymnast to emphasise certain aspects of the routine, or to manipulate the content
of their images for specic cognitive or motivational functions. In addition to
performance preparation of a well-learned skill, a number of studies have shown
motor imagery can assist in the acquisition of new skills. For instance, in a six-week
study of cycle athletes, mental imagery combined with physical training was more
eective at improving cycle sprint times than physical practice alone. However, the
eects of motor imagery on skill acquisition may only apply to movements that have
been previously experienced. This was suggested by research, which investigated
whether motor imagery could teach individuals how to move their big toe without
moving the other toes of the same foot. The study found that motor imagery was
only eective at improving this ability in individuals who were already able to
perform this task to some degree. Individuals who could not initially move their big
toe without moving the other toes did not improve from motor imagery alone. Thus
a mental representation of the movement must be present for the eects of motor
imagery to take place, and only movements that can already be performed to some
degree can be mentally trained. These constraints on motor imagery seem obvious
to us, as there are many things we can imagine doing but cannot physically perform.
This has been a recurring theme throughout motor imagery research, in which
motor imagery has been found to be most benecial when used in conjunction with
physical practice.
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Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Aside from its performance-enhancing benets, motor imagery has seen a
promising rise as a therapeutic tool for patients who have temporarily lost
some kind of physical movement, such as those recovering from stroke. In
these cases, early therapeutic interventions are crucial, specically in areas
of localised damage, to ensure that neuronal function is not lost as a result
of reduced physical inactivity during recovery. In these cases, motor imagery
can act as an early intervention tool, as research has found that imagining a
movement activates similar neurological pathways to physically performing
a movement. Motor imagery works by activating areas of the brain involved
in the planning and control of movements, albeit to a lesser degree than
physically performing the same movement. Furthermore, the time it takes to
imagine performing a movement mirrors the time taken to physically perform
the same movement; a phenomenon called isochrony. Specic muscles can
also show signs of activation during motor imagery in the absence of actual
muscle movement. For instance, when asked to imagine lifting a weighted
dumbbell, participants in a recent study showed electromyographic activity
(an indicator of electrical activity in skeletal muscles) in muscles that would
normally be used to lift the weight. The strength of this muscle activation even
increased as the imagined weight of the dumbbell increased. However, the
ability to successfully engage in motor imagery depends on how easily we can
imagine vivid images. Although some individuals may nd it more dicult
than others, imagery ability can be improved by following Layered Stimulus
Motor Imagery improves sports performance © Texas A & M University
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Response Training (LSRT). This requires an individual to draw their attention
to aspects of a mental image, which they nd relatively easy to imagine. More
complex details relevant to the image are progressively added in stages, with
the aim of producing a mental image that is as lifelike or vivid as possible. The
time taken to imagine movements can be an indicator of ones imagery ability,
as greater discrepancies between the time taken to perform a movement,
and the time taken to mentally imagine the same movement can suggest
poorer imagery ability. Whilst there are a number of specic motor imagery
programs used in sports including Visual-Motor-Behaviour Rehearsal, Clarity
and Controlling Exercise, and Emotional Control and Consciousness Exercise,
a single standardised program has yet to developed. This is partially due to the
dierences in the focus of the imagery. For instance, imagery goals may dier
for music, sports, rehabilitation and medicine. Nonetheless, an example of an
average motor imagery program would be a program in which an imagined
movement (such as hitting a ball) is repeated 34 times within a 17-minute
period. The session would be performed in a quiet location with eyes closed
and in the absence of physical movement. This session would then be repeated
three times a week for as long a period as desired.
Motor imagery is just one of the amazing feats of the human mind, in which a
mere thought can lead to improvements in physical skills. As motor imagery
is still a relatively new area of research, a range of theoretical implications
and practical applications associated with it remain ambiguous, such as how
the current theories regarding motor imagery can be combined into a single
unied theory, and to what extent do physical and imagined movements
overlap with one another. Whilst it seems for now there is no replacement for
actual physical practice, adding motor imagery to a practice or rehabilitation
regime can assist in taking physical skills to a higher level.
de Vries S, Mulder T. Motor imagery and stroke rehabilitation: a critical
discussion. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2007;39:5-13.
2007.pdf. Accessed June 24, 2015
Guillot A, Lebon F, Rouet D, Champely S, Doyon J, Collet C. Muscular responses
during motor imagery as a function of muscle contraction types. International
Journal of Psychophysiology. 2007;66:18-27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
pubmed/17590469. Accessed on June 24, 2015.
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Mizuguchi N, Nakata H, Uchida Y, Kanosue K. Motor imagery and sport
performance. The Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine. 2012;1:103-
111. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpfsm/1/1/1_103/_article. Accessed
on June 24, 2015.
Mokienko OA, Chernikova LA, Frolov AA, Bobrov PD. Motor Imagery and Its
Practical Application. Neuroscience and Behavioral Physiology. 2014;44:483-
489. http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/article/10.1007%2Fs11055-
014-9937-y. Accessed on June 24, 2015
Mulder T, Zijlstra S, Zijlstra W, Hochstenbach J. The role of motor imagery
in learning a totally novel movement. Experimental Brain Research.
2004;154:211-217. http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/article/10.100
7%2Fs00221-003-1647-6. Accessed on June 24, 2015.
Schuster C, Hilker R, Amft O, et al. Best practice for motor imagery: a
systematic literature review on motor imagery training elements in ve
dierent disciplines. BMC medicine. 2011;9:75-75. http://www.biomedcentral.
com/1741-7015/9/75. Accessed June 24, 2015.
Sharma N, Pomeroy VM, Baron J. Motor imagery: a backdoor to the motor
system after stroke? Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation. 2006;37:1941-
1952. http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/37/7/1941. Accessed June 24,
Williams SE, Cooley SJ, Cumming J. Layered stimulus response training
improves motor imagery ability and movement execution. Journal of
sport & exercise psychology. 2013;35:60. http://www.researchgate.net/
Motor_Imagery_Ability_and_Movement_Execution. Accessed on June 24,
Image Sources
Image 1: Woodleywonkerworkd. Love Somebody. Flickr Commons. 2009.
Attribution License. https://farm4.staticickr.com/3091/3217374412_86fe43d
c46_b_d.jpg. Altered June 24, 2015.
Image 2: Texas A & M University. Athletics-Soccer vs MWU-5235.jpg.
Flickr Commons, 2013. Attribution License.https://farm4.staticickr.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
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by Jonathan Robb
Debate over the side-eects of immunisation, most specically, whether or not
it is a cause for autism, has been raging throughout the world for the past fteen
years. Movements have been created urging people to not vaccinate their children,
while scientists and medical professionals report that vaccinations are, not only
safe, but crucial to the continued health of our society.
This ood of conicting information has left many
people confused and unsure of whether or not vaccines
are helpful or harmful. The blatant irony is that there is
no debate:
Immunisations DO NOT cause autism.
The Paper That Lied
In 1998, a paper was released detailing a supposed correlation between the measles,
mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the increased occurrence of autism. This
paper was not only not held to standard scientic measures (randomised control trials,
double-blind study), it was also later proven to be entirely fraudulent. In other words, it
was completely made up.
The statistics of the participants were altered to make it appear as if the incidence of
autism was a result of a recently administered vaccine — unfortunately, this information
was published and presented as fact. What wasn’t published was that the paper was
funded by an anti-MMR vaccine group, and, as stated, was completely made up.
This one paper muddied the waters to the extent that people started questioning
vaccinations, fearful of the supposed side-eects, while ignoring the huge health
benets vaccinations have given to our world. Benets such as growing up without the
fear of dying from measles, mumps or rubella. Benets such as not watching your child
struggle to breath as their still developing immune system tries to ght o whooping
cough. Benets such as the practical elimination of crippling diseases such polio.
Image © Psychonaught
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Image © Psychonaught
This one paper planted a rotten seed inside so many peoples heads, and, as human nature
makes us prone to believe the worst, got them questioning:
What is a vaccine anyway?
And the answer is beautiful in its simplicity. A vaccine is a preparation of an agent that
either resembles a disease, or is a weakened or dead form of a microbe, which is injected
into the body. This preparation is recognised by a persons immune system as foreign,
destroyed, and then remembered” so that when a person comes across an active form
of this disease, the immune system already has the tools to destroy it. Thereby, making a
person immune.
Creating a Flu Vaccine
Image © NIAID
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
A simple way to think of it is that a vaccine is a trial-run for the immune system, one
which means it is protected when the real thing comes alone. The important thing to
stress is that this trial-run, or preparation, contains no harmful components, no active
disease, and in no way can a person become infected through a vaccine, or develop
autism. It simply isn’t possible: the ingredients to achieve such a thing are not present.
What it does do is stop people getting sick.
Clearing the waters
Since the papers release in 1998 claiming a correlation between vaccinations and
autism, multiple studies have been conducted, using the standard scientic measures
that were lacking in the original paper, disproving again and again any link between
vaccines and autism. Each study used greater and greater sample sizes, with a study
conducted in 2003 in Denmark testing 467,450 children who were vaccinated between
January 1st, 1990, to December 31st, 1996. Compare this to the 12 children that were
tested in the original paper, and the contrast is almost laughable. Even with such a
huge pool of subjects, no pattern could be found between those immunised and the
rate of occurrence of autism.
But the rotten seed planted by the original paper continued to ower, and so further
studies were done to combat this stubborn misconception. Each study costs money in
research and man-power, is pulls research away from new areas, and keeps coming to
the same conclusion: vaccinations DO NOT cause autism.
But the waste of scientic resources is far from the greatest repercussion this fraudulent
paper has produced. No, the greatest repercussion is the death toll.
Resurgence of disease
Until recently, developed countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States,
and Australia were all but free from diseases such as rubella, measles, mumps and
whooping cough. This was achieved solely through the delivery of vaccinations during
childhood, eectively stopping these diseases in their tracks.
The miracle that was the discovery of vaccination essentially removed a fear that had
been present in all of human history — a fear of watching your children die from these
wasting and crippling diseases. But generational memory is apparently too short
a thing as, with the release of the fraudulent paper, people all across the developed
world began refusing to vaccinate their children, fearful of the fabricated side-eects,
and seeming to ignore the original intention of the vaccinations.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
These unvaccinated children acted as walking incubators for diseases that had almost
dwindled to extinction. Not only did those who were unvaccinated contract the
diseases, they helped in spreading the diseases to yet more children too young yet to
receive their vaccination through kindergartens and school-yards. These children could
then take it into their homes, and so the disease spread until the current circumstances
evolved: epidemic conditions.
Measles has resurged greatly throughout the United Kingdom, and the United States
has seen a large increase in the occurrence of whooping cough. Due to the success
of vaccinations, the severity of these diseases seems to be easily disregarded by most
people, yet measles is responsible for 164,000 deaths a year worldwide, and whooping
cough responsible for 195,000 deaths a year worldwide.
Australia has not escaped unscathed by this harmful gullibility, with an increase in measles
and whooping cough in recent years, and reported deaths of children and infants that
could have been avoided had they been vaccinated. Victoria has had 70 percent rise in
whooping cough this year alone when compared to statistics of this time last year.
Child With Whooping Cough
Image © Doc James
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
The overall message of these changes is a simple one: have your children vaccinated. The
reason for this message is equally simple — Its not vaccinations people should fear. Its
what will happen without them.
Watch the video below for a greater breakdown of the overwhelming statistics behind
debunking the vaccination myth:
Recently, changes have been made to the legislation around vaccinations, putting
an end to religious exemptions from immunisation. An incentive program has also
been introduced, prompting GPs to encourage parents to stay up-to-date with their
childrens immunisations, as well as a tightening up of welfare eligibility in regard to
maintaining vaccinations.
Administering a Vaccine
Image © Rhoda Baer
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Abrams, L. Measles outbreak! Vaccine trutherism now ocially a public health crisis. Salon.
Mar 21, 2014. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/20/measles_outbreak_vaccine_
trutherism_now_ocially_a_public_health_crisis/. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Black S, Shineeld H, Fireman B et al. Ecacy, safety and immunogenicity of heptavalent
pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in children. Northern California Kaiser Permanente
Vaccine Study Center Group. Pediatr Infect Dis J [serial online]. 2000;19:187-195. Available
at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10749457. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Hornig M, Briese T, Buie T et al. Lack of Association between Measles Virus Vaccine and
Autism with Enteropathy: A Case-Control Study. PLoS ONE [serial online]. 2008;3. Available
at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0003140. Accessed
June 14, 2015.
Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M. Association Between Thimerosal-Containing
Vaccine and Autism. JAMA [serial online]. 2003;290(13):1763-1766. Available at: http://jama.
jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=197365. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB et al. Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism:
negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Paediatrics [serial online].
2003;112:604-606. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12949291. Accessed
June 14, 2015.
Medhora, S. Vaccination crackdown: Australia announces end to religious exemptions. April
19, 2015. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/19/vaccination-
crackdown-australia-announces-end-to-religious-exemptions. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Raft, J. Dear parents, you are being lied to. Jennifer Raft. March 25, 2014. Available at: http://
violentmetaphors.com/2014/03/25/parents-you-are-being-lied-to/. Accessed: 14 June,
The Week Sta. The worrying rise of the anti-vaccination movement. The Week. Mar 1,
2014. Available at: http://theweek.com/articles/450101/worrying-rise-antivaccination-
movement. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism: Healthcare Triage #12 [Video le]. Published on Jan 19, 2014.
Healthcare Triage. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=175&v=o65l1YAVaYc,
Accessed June 14, 2015.
Van Den Berg, L. Whooping cough spike in Victoria sparks vaccination push. June 13, 2015.
Available at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/whooping-cough-spike-in-
victoria-sparks-vaccination-push/story-fni0t3-1227395763544. Accessed June 14, 2015.
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WHO. Vaccines. World Health Organisation. Jan 1, 2015. Available at: http://www.who.int/
topics/vaccines/en/. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Winter, L. One map sums up the damage caused by the anti-vaccination movement. Jan
24, 2014. Available at: http://www.iscience.com/health-and-medicine/one-map-sums-
damage-caused-anti-vaccination-movement. Accessed June 14, 2015.
Image sources
Image 1: Psychonaught, Close-up of a medical syringe and needle on a black background,
Wikimedia Commons, © 2010, under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence,
Image 2: NIAID, “Flu Vaccine: Reverse Genetics”, Flickr, copyright 2010 under an attribution
licence, https://farm2.staticickr.com/1116/5102236843_023c83ec5a_o_d.jpg
Image 3: Doc James, This image depicts a young boy who presented to a clinic suering
from what was diagnosed as pertussis, Wikimedia Commons, © 1995, under Creative
Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
Image 4: Rhoda Baer, Nurse Administers a Vaccine, Wikimedia Commons, © 2009, under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
by Victoria Ticha
Humans have long looked up at the night sky in awe of its sheer beauty, while terried
of its veiled mysteries. We have come face to face with the eternal abyss. Pondering its
magnicent silence, we ask many questions, whilst the universe remains precariously
silent. Yet as still as it may appear to the naked eye, the restless universe is being shaped
behind its veil of gas and stars. Socrates once said that “I know that I know nothing”, this
couldn’t be more true. Collisions, explosions and shockwaves rip through the cosmos
habitually, yet no one really knows why, how, and what exactly this mean for the future
of life on Earth.
What lies behind the veil? It may be unsettling to know that lurking deep within our
own galaxy there is a supermassive black hole, feeding on nearby material and anything
that passes the Event Horizon, but given the limited time we have on this planet, we
shouldn’t lose sleep over the things we can’t control. Instead, focus on the things we
can. The universe is full of drama, it is inescapable, but the marvellous thing is: we get
to choose how we react to it.
Image © Zach Dischner, Flickr
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Black holes are the especially dark horses of the cosmos. They are places where ordinary
gravity has become so extreme it can overwhelm all other forces in the universe. Most
large galaxies like our own are thought to contain supermassive black holes at their
core. While they remain dark enigmas of outer space, we do know that a black hole sits
in centre of the Milky Way, it is called Sagittarius A* (or A-star).
Black holes are formed from dying stars at least twenty times the mass of our sun. As they
develop, gravity pulls more gas in so its disc spins faster and faster, increasing friction,
growing and growing. As the gas falls towards the black hole, it heats up, producing
blazing beacons known as quasars that can be seen across the universe.
In 1915, Albert Einstein developed his theory of general relativity and a few months later,
Karl Schwarzschild found a solution to the Einstein eld equations which described the
gravitational eld of a point mass and a spherical mass. Schwarzschild is credited with
developing the concept of black holes by using Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
He began to make calculations about the gravity elds of stars and concluded that if a
huge mass such as a star were to be concentrated down to the size of an innitesimal
point, the effects of Einstein’s relativity would become so extreme that it would form a
black hole.
Is there a possibility that Earth could be swallowed up by Sagittarius A-star? Not really,
since this black hole is 25,000 light years away, there is more mass between Earth and
the centre of the Milky Way. This suggests that the Earth is far from entering the Event
Horizon and is far from its gravitational eld. Therefore, the black hole is insignicant
in affecting us on Earth. Rather, black holes are thought to anchor galaxies, since their
intensity pulls stars into orbit, which in turn attracts more stars, forming galaxies with
black holes as their heart.
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
So we know that we need black holes to shape galaxies, but could they ever threaten
our one? The universe is full of drama, it may appear quiet and still when you look up
at the night sky, but dramatic change is happening all around us. While we are far from
being sucked into a black hole, scientists have predicted that in about 4 billion years,
the two largest galaxies (our very own Milky Way and the Andromeda) will collide in
a spectacular show forming a ‘Milky Andromeda’. The collision of two galaxies would
instigate the merging of their two black holes. What happens when two black holes
collide? They form an even bigger black hole.
Numerical simulation of two merging black holes performed by the Albert Einstein Institute
in Germany: what this rendition shows through colours is the degree of perturbation of the
space-time fabric, the so-called gravitational waves.
This supercomputer simulation shows one of the most violent events in the universe: a
pair of neutron stars colliding, merging and forming a black hole. A neutron star is the
compressed core left behind when a star born with between eight and 30 times the sun’s
mass explodes as a supernova. Neutron stars pack about 1.5 times the mass of the sun —
equivalent to about half a million Earths — into a ball just 12 miles (20 km) across.
Image © Werner Benger, Flickr
Image © NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre
Independent Media Inspiring Minds
Scientists proposed that these two will eventually collide because they are approaching
each other with a speed of 300,000 miles per hour. Within a few billion years they will
be drawing ever closer, to eventually smash together, evolving into a colossal elliptical
While 4 billion years seems like forever away, this prediction informs us of how tiny a
spec human life really is compared to the history of the universe. In fact, “If the Earth
formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later, modern
humans have been around since 11:59:59pm—1 second” – Tim Urban, Wait But Why.
Every act of creation is rst an act of destruction. While we can’t do much about the
future, we can certainly do the best we can now. Don’t stress about life and all its
dramas, the universe is full of them, it is an inescapable part of living. Nothing lasts
forever, so enjoy every minute, life is worth the drama.
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to
know itself.” ? Carl Sagan, Cosmos (Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, 1980)\
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. 1980. [Film] Directed by Adrian Malone. United States : PBS.
Urban, T., na. Wait But Why. [Online]
Available at: http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/08/putting-time-in-perspective.html.
Accessed 05 June 2015.
Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books, Inc.
Wheeler, J. Craig (2007). Cosmic Catastrophes (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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Licence, https://farm6.staticickr.com/5126/5290873034_786ec5eba8_b_d.jpg
IMAGE 2: Werner Benger, “When black holes collide”, Flickr, 2012, under Creative
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The Hubble Space Telescope
25 years on
by Margaret Gregory
This year marks the 25
year anniversary if the Hubble Space Telescope – an amazing achievement for
a project originally intended to last 15 years.
Since Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus and others began observing the universe, telescopes have become
indispensable for investigating the cosmos. Since then, bigger and better telescopes have been designed
and built. With each advance in spectroscopy, photography and photometry, telescopes have increased
in versatility and sensitivity, leading to more and more planets, stars and nebulae being discovered.
Hubble oating free (2002).
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Even with each improvement, the major obstacle to getting the clearest view of the universe has been
the Earth’s atmosphere. The mixture of gases and dust are the reason why we cannot see faint stars,
other stars twinkle, and visible light is blurred.
The atmosphere protects us from the harmful effects of gamma rays, x-rays, infrared and ultraviolet
rays, but these same wavelengths can tell us so much about the far reaches of space.
To circumvent some of the issues of atmospheric dust, and the distracting effects of the lights of cities,
the observatories with the largest telescopes have been constructed on mountain tops or in remote
places like Australia’s Outback.
In recent times, adaptive optics and other imaging techniques have minimised, but not eliminated, the
effects of the atmosphere.
During the early 1920s, the idea of a telescope in space was rst suggested. In the early years after
NASA was created, two Orbital Astronomical Observatories were placed in orbit. These made a number
of UV observations and provided a learning experience for future space observations.
The next step was intended to be a large orbital telescope, but after the 1969 moon landing, the
funding dwindled and various downsizing measures were considered.
In 1974, the group working on the concept recommended that the space telescope carry a complement
of interchangeable instruments with specications to resolve at least 1/10
of an arc second and have
a wavelength range from ultraviolet through the visible to infrared.
1 arc second or arc sec is 1/60
of an arc minute, 1/3600
of a degree or 1/1296000
of a circle.
STS-31 Launch April 24, 1990
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With the development of the space shuttle, a vehicle that could achieve orbit, return to Earth
intact, and be reused repeatedly, the feasibility of a space telescope increased. The idea was that
the shuttle could deploy the telescope into its intended orbit, and later reel it back in for its return
to Earth.
NASA proposed a lifetime of 15 years for the space telescope, implying that the instruments
needed to be able to be replaced on the ground or serviced while in orbit. This was an ability not
afforded to any satellite before, or since. Funding for the project was approved in 1977. For the
maintenance and upgrading of the space telescope, plans were made to perform this in orbit – an
innovative concept that would be less costly than returning the telescope to Earth to refurbish it.
At this time, the space telescope was renamed the Hubble Space Telescope and in 1985, it was
assembled and ready for launch.
The Challenger accident in 1986 forced NASA to ground the space shuttle eet for two years.
This delay, although costly, actually enabled the inclusion of solar panels that used new solar
cell technology, and for the aft shroud to be modied to make the installation of replacement
instruments during service much easier. Computers and communication systems were also
upgraded. The downside was that the telescope had to be kept in a clean room, powered up and
purged with nitrogen, until a launch could be rescheduled. This cost about $6 million per month
and pushed the overall costs of the project even higher.
Finally, on April 24th 1990, Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off with Hubble in its storage bay. The
following day, Hubble was released into orbit at approximately 559 km above Earth, to begin
travelling at 7.5 km/sec.
There, above the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere, the rainclouds and pollution, Hubble has an
unobstructed view of the universe. Scientists have used Hubble to observe distant stars and
galaxies as well as planets in our solar system.
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Looking Back
Astronauts visited the orbiting telescope ve times since it was launched in April 1990, conducting
23 spacewalks to repair and improve it. The “handprints” come from oil and silicon on the
astronauts’ gloves, which make an impression on Hubble’s exterior foil. Initially invisible, these
residues darken over time as they are exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation.
The prints Astronaut Grunsfeld saw are more than chemical scuff marks, though.
“They are a symbol,” he says, “of a unique human-robotic partnership.”
Hubble’s designers intended for astronauts to lay hands on Hubble. The telescope is festooned
with knobs and handrails, hinged doors, and crawl spaces t for astronauts to visit and tinker. This
has allowed Hubble to do something no other spacecraft has done before—evolve.
Ground support
The Hubble Space Telescope explores our universe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Operating and maintaining such a tireless observatory and converting its raw data (digital signals)
into images requires considerable effort.
All of the Hubble Space Telescope’s activities are controlled by people on the ground. The
focal point of all Hubble operations is the Flight Operations Team (FOT), which is located at the
Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Handprints on Hubble – video dated 26th July 2015
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Gathering images from space is more than a “point and shoot” proposition.
The controllers direct Hubble’s movements by sending commands via satellite to the telescope’s
onboard computer. The majority of Hubble’s operations are programmed in advance, but
controllers can also interact in real time with the spacecraft, telling it what to do and when to do
Hubble’s ight operations facility operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The specially trained
engineers and technicians who comprise the FOT work rotating shifts, with 3 to 4 people on each
shift. A typical day involves commanding and pointing the telescope, monitoring its behaviour
on consoles, and looking for anything unusual in the technical sense.
One rather complex task is scheduling observations for the telescope. Hubble is in a low-Earth
orbit to enable servicing missions, but this means that most astronomical targets are occulted
by the Earth for slightly less than half of each orbit. Observations cannot take place when the
telescope passes through the South Atlantic Anomaly due to elevated radiation levels, and there
are also sizable exclusion zones around the Sun (precluding observations of Mercury), Moon and
Earth. The solar avoidance angle is about 50°, to keep sunlight from illuminating any part of the
OTA (Optical Telescope Assembly). Earth and Moon avoidance keeps bright light out of the FGSs,
and keeps scattered light from entering the instruments. If the FGSs are turned off, however, the
Moon and Earth can be observed.
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Hubble’s instruments
When the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, it had ve major instruments.
Wide Field and Planetary Camera
WF/PC was a high-resolution imaging device primarily intended for optical observations and
incorporated a set of 48 lters isolating spectral lines of particular astrophysical interest. The
instrument contained eight charge-coupled device (CCD) chips divided between two cameras,
each using four CCDs. Each CCD has a resolution of 0.64 megapixels.
The “wide eld camera” (WFC) covered a large angular eld at the expense of resolution, while
the “planetary camera” (PC) took images at a longer effective focal length than the WF chips,
giving it a greater magnication.
Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph
The GHRS was a spectrograph designed to operate in the ultraviolet. It was built by the Goddard
Space Flight Centre and could achieve a spectral resolution of 90,000.
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Faint Object Camera and Faint Object Spectrograph
Also optimized for ultraviolet observations were the FOC and FOS, which were capable of the
highest spatial resolution of any instruments on Hubble. Rather than CCDs these three instruments
used photon-counting digicons as their detectors.
High Speed Photometer
The nal instrument was the HSP, It was optimized for visible and ultraviolet light observations
of variable stars and other astronomical objects varying in brightness. It could take up to 100,000
measurements per second with a photometric accuracy of about 2% or better.
The Hubble Space Telescope’s guidance system can also be used as a scientic instrument.
Its three Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) are primarily used to keep the telescope accurately
pointed during an observation, but can also be used to carry out extremely accurate astrometry;
measurements accurate to within 0.0003 arcseconds have been achieved.
Hubble diagram - exploded view
© Wikipedia
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Hubble Mission Operations
Hubble mission operations fall into two
Engineering operations, which test
and maintain the Hubble spacecraft’s
overall performance.
Science operations, which select and
schedule observing programs, prepare
and conduct observations, calibrate
the science instruments, translate raw
data into usable form, and archive and
distribute data.
The raw data collected by the telescope
have a long way to go before they
become actual Hubble images.
As Hubble completes a particular
observation, it converts the starlight
into digital signals. About twice daily,
the Hubble Space Telescope radios data
to a satellite in the geosynchronous
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
System (TDRSS), which then downlinks
the science data to one of two 60-
foot (18-meter) diameter high-gain
microwave antennas located at the
White Sands Test Facility in White
Sands, New Mexico. The ground station
then relays the data to Goddard Space
Flight Centre’s ground control system,
where staff ensure its completeness
and accuracy.
Goddard then sends the data via data
lines to the Space Telescope Science
Institute for processing and calibration.
Institute personnel translate the data into scientically meaningful units such as wavelength or
brightness — and archive the information on 5.25-inch (13.3-cm) magneto-optical disks. Each week,
HST downlinks approximately 120 gigabytes of data to the archive; enough information to ll about
18 DVDs. Astronomers can download archived data via the Internet and analyse it from anywhere in
the world.
Hubble’s Data Pipeline
Path that Hubble data must travel before
becoming an image enlarge graphic
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The Hubble Space Telescope is both a national asset and a complex machine, so NASA astronauts
have visited it regularly to keep it running smoothly and extend its life. On-orbit servicing
ensures that this unique scientic resource continues to make exciting discoveries and explore
the universe.
During the service missions, the ground controllers become even busier than usual.
Shortly after the shuttle is launched, the controllers instruct Hubble to stop normal science
operations. To prepare the huge telescope for rendezvous and capture, they command Hubble’s
aperture door to close and its high gain antennas to be stowed. After capture, as the astronauts
install new equipment on Hubble, the controllers immediately test the updates. Later, while the
crew sleeps, controllers perform more detailed reviews. At the end of each servicing mission, the
Flight Operations Team deploy Hubble’s high-gain antennas and open its aperture door. They
then reactivate all Hubble equipment powered off during the servicing call.
After that, the telescope undergoes a check-out period, called the Servicing Mission Orbital
Verication (SMOV), during which all new instruments are put through their paces to ensure that
everything is operating as expected.
Shuttle astronauts have visited the Hubble Space Telescope every several years. During these
service calls they replaced gyroscopes, electronic boxes, and other limited-life items and installed
state-of-the-art science instruments — creating, essentially, a more capable observatory.
Because the Hubble Space Telescope was designed for periodic servicing, the items being
replaced are easily accessible. Ranging in size from a shoebox to a telephone booth, most of
these items can be removed or installed using special wrenches and power tools.
Servicing missions have ensured Hubble’s health and productivity into the 21st century.
Hubble was designed to accommodate regular servicing and equipment upgrades. Five servicing
missions (SM 1, 2, 3A, 3B, and 4) were own by NASA space shuttles, the rst in December 1993 and
the last in May 2009. Servicing missions were delicate operations that began with manoeuvring
to intercept the telescope in orbit and carefully retrieving it with the shuttle’s mechanical arm.
The necessary work was then carried out in multiple tethered spacewalks over a period of four to
ve days. After a visual inspection of the telescope, astronauts conducted repairs, replaced failed
or degraded components, upgraded equipment, and installed new instruments. Once work was
completed, the telescope was redeployed, typically after boosting to a higher orbit to address
the orbital decay caused by atmospheric drag.
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Servicing Mission 1 - 1993
Soon after Hubble began operating, problems
with Hubble’s mirror were discovered. The rst
servicing mission assumed greater importance, as
the astronauts would need to do extensive work to
install corrective optics. The seven astronauts for
the mission were trained to use about a hundred
specialized tools. SM1 ew aboard Endeavour in
December 1993, and involved installation of several
instruments and other equipment over ten days.
Most importantly, the High Speed Photometer
was replaced with the COSTAR corrective optics
package, and WFPC was replaced with the Wide
Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) with an
internal optical correction system. The solar arrays
and their drive electronics were also replaced, as well as four gyroscopes in the telescope pointing
system, two electrical control units and other electrical components, and two magnetometers. The
onboard computers were upgraded, and Hubble’s orbit was boosted.
On January 13, 1994, NASA declared the mission a complete success and showed the rst sharper
images. At the time, the mission was one of the most complex, involving ve long extra-vehicular
activity periods. Its success was a boon for NASA, as well as for the astronomers with a more
capable space telescope.
The spiral galaxy M100, imaged with Hubble before and after corrective optics
Hubble Docked with
the Shuttle Endeavor (1993),
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Servicing Mission 2 - 1997
Hubble’s “rst generation” cameras gave us remarkable views of very distant galaxies. However
the light from the most distant galaxies is shifted to infrared wavelengths by the expanding
universe. To see these galaxies, Hubble needed to be tted with an instrument that could observe
infrared light.
During the 10-day Second Servicing Mission own by Discovery in February 1997, the seven
astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery installed two technologically advanced instruments
to replace the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph and the Faint Object Spectrograph.
The Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) which would be able to
observe the universe in the infrared wavelengths. The second instrument — the versatile Space
Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) — would be used to take detailed pictures of celestial
objects and to hunt for black holes.
Both instruments had optics that corrected for the awed primary mirror. In addition, they
featured technology that wasn’t available when scientists designed and built the original Hubble
instruments in the late 1970s — and opened up a broader viewing window for Hubble.
NICMOS contained a heat sink of solid nitrogen to reduce the thermal noise from the instrument,
but shortly after it was installed, an unexpected thermal expansion resulted in part of the heat
sink coming into contact with an optical bafe. This led to an increased warming rate for the
instrument and reduced its original expected lifetime of 4.5 years to about 2 years.
Hubble as seen from Discovery during its second servicing mission
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Also installed during the Second Servicing Mission were:
A refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor — one of three essential instruments used to provide
pointing information for the spacecraft, to keep it pointing on target, and to calculate celestial
A Solid State Recorder (SSR) to replace an Engineering and Science Tape Recorder (A SSR is
more exible and can store 10 times more data)
A refurbished, spare Reaction Wheel Assembly — part of the Pointing Control Subsystem.
Servicing Mission 3A
Servicing Mission 3A, own
by Discovery, took place in
December 1999, and was
a split-off from Servicing
Mission 3 after three of the
six onboard gyroscopes
had failed. The fourth
failed a few weeks before
the mission, rendering
the telescope incapable
of performing scientic
observations. The mission
replaced all six gyroscopes,
replaced a Fine Guidance
Sensor and the computer,
installed a Voltage/
temperature Improvement
Kit (VIK) to prevent battery
overcharging, and replaced
thermal insulation blankets.
The new computer was 20
times faster, with six times
more memory, than the DF-
224 it replaced. It increased
throughput by moving
some computing tasks from
the ground to the spacecraft, and saved money by allowing the use of modern programming
Discovery on Its Way to Hubble (1999)
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Servicing Mission 3B
Servicing Mission 3B own by Columbia in March 2002 saw the installation of a new instrument,
with the Faint Object Camera (the last original instrument) being replaced by the Advanced
Camera for Surveys (ACS).
This meant that COSTAR, (the corrective optics package), was no longer required, since all new
instruments had built-in correction for the main mirror aberration. The mission also revived
NICMOS by installing a closed-cycle cooler and replaced the solar arrays for the second time,
providing 30 percent more power.
Servicing Mission 4
Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), own by Atlantis, launched on May 11, 2009, was the culmination of
a long effort to provide the telescope with one more servicing mission.
Originally scheduled for 2004, SM4 was postponed and then cancelled after the loss of the Space
Shuttle Columbia. Following the successful recovery of the shuttle program and a re-examination
of SM4 risks, NASA approved another mission. SM4 was perhaps Hubble’s most challenging
and intense servicing mission, with a multitude of tasks to be completed over the course of ve
In late September 2008, only two weeks before the mission was to launch, a malfunction occurred
in one of the systems that commands the science instruments and directs the ow of data within
the telescope. The problem was xed by switching to a backup system, but NASA was unwilling
to leave the telescope without a spare. The mission was delayed until May while engineers and
scientists tested and prepared an existing and nearly identical system.
Astronauts were able to install the spare Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit
in addition to all previously scheduled tasks.
Also during Servicing Mission 4, astronauts accomplished a feat never envisioned by the telescope
creators - on-site repairs for two instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the
Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). Both had stopped working; ACS after an electrical
short in 2007, and STIS after a power failure in 2004. To perform the repairs, astronauts had to
access the interior of the instruments, switch out components, and reroute power.
The successful completion of this task, along with the addition of the two new instruments, gave
Hubble a full complement of ve functioning instruments for its future observations.
The two new observation instruments were the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic
Origins Spectrograph (COS).
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Astronauts removed Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to make room
for WFC3 which sees three different kinds of light: near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared,
though not simultaneously. The camera’s resolution and eld of view is much greater than that
of previous instruments.
COS, a spectrograph that breaks light into its component colours, revealing information about
the object emitting the light, sees exclusively in ultraviolet light. COS improves Hubble’s
ultraviolet sensitivity at least 10 times, and up to 70 times when observing extremely faint
COS took the place of the device installed in Hubble during the rst servicing mission to correct
Hubble’s awed mirror, the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR).
Since the rst servicing mission, all of Hubble’s replacement instruments have had technology
built into them to correct Hubble’s marred vision, making COSTAR no longer necessary.
Since SM4 is expected to be the last astronaut mission to Hubble, one of the goals was to
reinforce and reinvigorate the telescope’s basic spaceight systems. Astronauts replaced all of
Hubble’s batteries, which were 18 years old, and installed improved nickel hydrogen batteries.
Hubble during Service Mission 4
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They also installed six new gyroscopes, which are used to point the telescope, and a Fine Guidance
Sensor, which locks onto stars as part of the pointing system. They covered key Hubble equipment
bays with insulating panels called New Outer Blanket Layers, to replace protective blankets that had
broken down over the course of their long exposure to the harsh conditions of space.
A new device was installed, the Soft Capture Mechanism. This simple device will allow a robotic
spacecraft to attach itself to Hubble someday, once the telescope is at the end of its life, and
guide it through its descent into Earth’s atmosphere.
The work accomplished during SM4 rendered the telescope fully functional, and it remains so
as of 2015.
Soft Capture Mechanism attached to Hubble’s aft bulkhead
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One of Hubble’s most famous images, “Pillars of Creation” shows stars forming in the Eagle
Nebula Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a bigger and
sharper photograph of the iconic Eagle Nebula’s “Pillars of Creation” (right); the original 1995
Hubble image is shown at left.
To commemorate Hubble’s
25th anniversary in space on
April 24, 2015, STScI released
images of the Westerlund 2
cluster, located about 20,000
light-years (6,100 pc) away
in the constellation Carina,
through its Hubble 25 website.
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Some important discoveries
Hubble has helped resolve some long-standing problems in astronomy, as well as raising new
questions. Some results have required new theories to explain them. One of its primary mission
targets was to measure distances to Cepheid variable stars more accurately than ever before, and
thus constrain the value of the Hubble constant, the measure of the rate at which the universe
is expanding, which is also related to its age. Before the launch of HST, estimates of the Hubble
constant typically had errors of up to 50%, but Hubble measurements of Cepheid variables in
the Virgo Cluster and other distant galaxy clusters provided a measured value with an accuracy
of ±10%.
The high-resolution spectra and images provided by the HST have been especially well-suited to
establishing the prevalence of black holes in the nuclei of nearby galaxies. The Hubble programs
further established that the masses of the nuclear black holes and properties of the galaxies are
closely related.
The collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994 was fortuitously timed for
astronomers, coming just a few months after Servicing Mission 1 had restored Hubble’s optical
performance. Hubble images of the planet were sharper than any taken since the passage of
Voyager 2 in 1979, and were crucial in studying the dynamics of the collision of a comet with
Jupiter, an event believed to occur once every few centuries.
Saturn Aurora — January 28, 2004
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Other discoveries made with Hubble data include proto-planetary disks (proplyds) in the Orion
Nebula; evidence for the presence of extrasolar planets around Sun-like stars; and the optical
counterparts of the still-mysterious gamma ray bursts. HST has also been used to study objects
in the outer reaches of the Solar System, including the dwarf planets Pluto and Eris.
During June and July 2012, US astronomers using Hubble discovered a tiny fth moon moving
around icy Pluto.
In March 2015, researchers announced that measurements of aurorae around Ganymede
revealed that the moon has a subsurface ocean. Using Hubble to study the motion of its aurorae,
the researchers determined that a large saltwater ocean was helping to suppress the interaction
between Jupiter’s magnetic eld and that of Ganymede. The ocean is estimated to be 100 km (60
mile) deep, trapped beneath a 150 km (90 mile) ice crust.
Color images
One of the enduring legacies of the Hubble Space telescope is the library of amazing images of
the universe.
All images from Hubble are monochromatic grayscale, in which its cameras incorporate a variety
of lters each sensitive to specic wavelengths of light. Colour images are created by combining
separate monochrome images taken through different lters. This process can also create false-
colour versions of images including infrared and ultraviolet channels, where infrared is typically
rendered as a deep red and ultraviolet is rendered as a deep blue.
Some of these images are reproduced on later pages.
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To understand false color, a look at the concept behind true color is helpful. An image is called
a “true-color” image when it offers a natural color rendition, or when it comes close to it. This
means that the colors of an object in an image appear to a human observer the same way as if
this observer were to directly view the object. When applied to black-and-white images, true-
color means that the perceived lightness of a subject is preserved in its depiction.
Two exemplary Landsat satellite images showing the same region:
Chesapeake Bay and the city of Baltimore
The “true-colorimage shows the area in actual colors, e.g., the vegetation appears in
green. It covers the full visible spectrum using the red, green and blue / green spectral
bands of the satellite mapped to the RGB color space of the image.
The same area as a false-colorimage using the near infrared, red and green spectral
bands mapped to RGB – this image shows vegetation in a red tone, as vegetation reects
much light in the near infrared.
True colour satellite image of Chesapeake Bay and the city of
Baltimore, taken by the Landsat 7 satellite
False colour satellite image of Chesapeake Bay and the city of
Baltimore, taken by the Landsat 7 satellite
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Preparing for the end
Hubble orbits the Earth in the extremely tenuous upper atmosphere, and over time its orbit
decays due to drag. If it is not re-boosted, it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within some
decades, with the exact date depending on how active the Sun is and its impact on the upper
atmosphere. If Hubble were to descend in a completely uncontrolled re-entry, parts of the main
mirror and its support structure would probably survive, leaving the potential for damage or
even human fatalities. In 2013, deputy project manager James Jeletic projected that Hubble
could survive into 2020. Based on solar activity and atmospheric drag, or lack thereof, a natural
atmospheric re-entry for Hubble will occur between 2030 and 2040.
NASA’s original plan for safely de-orbiting Hubble was to retrieve it using a space shuttle. Hubble
would then have most likely been displayed in the Smithsonian Institution. This is no longer
possible since the space shuttle eet has been retired, and would have been unlikely in any case
due to the cost of the mission and risk to the crew. Instead NASA considered adding an external
propulsion module to allow controlled re-entry. Ultimately NASA installed the Soft Capture and
Rendezvous System, to enable deorbit by either a crewed or robotic mission.
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Plans for a Hubble successor materialized as the Next Generation Space Telescope project, which
culminated in plans for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the formal successor of Hubble.
Very different from a scaled-up Hubble, it is designed to operate colder and farther away from
the Earth at the L2 Lagrangian point, where thermal and optical interference from the Earth and
Moon are lessened. It is not engineered to be fully serviceable (such as replaceable instruments),
but the design includes a docking ring to enable visits from other spacecraft. A main scientic
goal of JWST is to observe the most distant objects in the universe, beyond the reach of existing
instruments. It is expected to detect stars in the early Universe approximately 280 million years
older than stars HST now detects. The telescope is an international collaboration between NASA,
the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency since 1996, and is planned for
launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. Although JWST is primarily an infrared instrument, its coverage
extends down to 600 nm wavelength light, or roughly orange in the visible spectrum. A typical
human eye can see to about 750 nm wavelength light, so there is some overlap with the longest
visible wavelength bands, including orange and red light.
Hubble and JWST mirrors (4.5 m2 and 25 m2 respectively) © NASA
Artist depiction of James Webb Space Telescope
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Hubble Facts
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was launched April 24, 1990, on the space shuttle
Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations since its mission began
in 1990.
Astronomers using Hubble data have published more than 12,800 scientic
papers, making it one of the most productive scientic instruments ever built.
Hubble does not travel to stars, planets or galaxies. It takes pictures of them as
it whirls around Earth at about 27,400 kph (17,000 mph).
Hubble has travelled more than 4.8 billion km (3 billion miles) along a circular
low Earth orbit currently about 550 kn (340 miles) in altitude.
Hubble has no thrusters. To change pointing angles, it uses Newton’s third law
by spinning its wheels in the opposite direction. It turns at about the speed of
a minute hand on a clock, taking 15 minutes to turn 90 degrees.
Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able
to shine a laser beam on a dime 320 kn (200 miles) away.
Outside the haze of our atmosphere, Hubble can see astronomical objects
with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of reies
in Tokyo from your home in Maryland.
Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4
billion light years from Earth.
The Hubble archive contains more than 100 Terabytes, and Hubble science
data processing generates about 10 Terabytes of new archive data per year.
Hubble weighed about 10,900 kg (24,000 pounds) at launch and currently
weighs about12,250 kg (27,000 pounds) following the nal servicing mission
in 2009.
Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across.
Hubble is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long.
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Light Echo From Star V838 Monocerotis
NASA, ESA and H.E. Bond (STScI)
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Star Cluster NGC 290
ESA & NASA, E. Olszewski (University of Arizona)
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Bipolar Planetary Nebula PN Hb 12
NASA, ESA, and A. Zijlstra (The University of Manchester)
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In commemoration of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope completing its 100,000th orbit in its 18th
year of exploration and discovery, scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute aimed Hubble
to take a snapshot of a dazzling region of celestial birth and renewal.
Hubble peered into a small portion of the nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074 (upper, left). The
region is a restorm of raw stellar creation, perhaps triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. It
lies about 170,000 light-years away near the Tarantula nebula, one of the most active star-forming
regions in our Local Group of galaxies.
The three-dimensional-looking image reveals dramatic ridges and valleys of dust, serpent-head
“pillars of creation,” and gaseous laments glowing ercely under torrential ultraviolet radiation. The
region is on the edge of a dark molecular cloud that is an incubator for the birth of new stars.
The high-energy radiation blazing out from clusters of hot young stars already born in NGC 2074
is sculpting the wall of the nebula by slowly eroding it away. Another young cluster may be hidden
beneath a circle of brilliant blue gas at centre, bottom.
In this approximately 100-light-year-wide fantasy-like landscape, dark towers of dust rise above a
glowing wall of gases on the surface of the molecular cloud. The seahorse-shaped pillar at lower,
right is approximately 20 light-years long, roughly four times the distance between our Sun and the
nearest star, Alpha Centauri.
The region is in the Large
Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a
satellite of our Milky Way
galaxy. It is a fascinating
laboratory for observing star-
formation regions and their
evolution. Dwarf galaxies like
the LMC are considered to be
the primitive building blocks of
larger galaxies.
This representative colour
image was taken on August 10,
2008, with Hubble’s Wide Field
Planetary Camera 2. Red shows
emission from sulphur atoms,
green from glowing hydrogen,
and blue from glowing oxygen.
Taken Under the “Wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud
NASA, ESA, CXC and the University of Potsdam, JPL-Caltech, and STScI
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Rising from a sea of dust and
gas like a giant seahorse, the
Horsehead nebula is one
of the most photographed
objects in the sky. NASA’s
Hubble Space Telescope
took a close-up look at this
heavenly icon, revealing the
cloud’s intricate structure.
The Horsehead, also known
as Barnard 33, is a cold,
dark cloud of gas and dust,
silhouetted against the
bright nebula, IC 434. The
bright area at the top left
edge is a young star still
embedded in its nursery of
gas and dust.
Only by chance does the
nebula roughly resemble the
head of a horse. Its unusual
shape was rst discovered
on a photographic plate
in the late 1800s. Located
in the constellation Orion,
the Horsehead is a cousin
of the famous pillars of
dust and gas known as the
Eagle nebula. Both tower-
like nebulas are cocoons of
young stars.
The Horsehead nebula lies
just south of the bright star
Zeta Orionis, which is easily
visible to the unaided eye as
the left-hand star in the line
of three that form Orion’s
2013 image
2001 image
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A new image from NASA’s Spitzer
and Hubble Space Telescopes
looks more like an abstract
painting than a cosmic snapshot.
The magnicent masterpiece
shows the Orion nebula in an
explosion of infrared, ultraviolet
and visible-light colours. It was
“painted” by hundreds of baby
stars on a canvas of gas and dust,
with intense ultraviolet light and
strong stellar winds as brushes.
At the heart of the artwork is a
set of four monstrously massive
stars, collectively called the
Trapezium. These behemoths
are approximately 100,000 times
brighter than our sun. Their community can be identied as the yellow smudge near the centre
of the composite.
The swirls of green were revealed by Hubble’s ultraviolet and visible-light detectors. They are
hydrogen and sulphur gases heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from the Trapezium’s stars.
Wisps of red, also detected by Spitzer, indicate infrared light from illuminated clouds containing
carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. On Earth, polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons are found on burnt toast and in automobile exhaust.
Additional stars in Orion are sprinkled throughout the image in a rainbow of colours. Spitzer
exposed infant stars deeply embedded in a cocoon of dust and gas (orange-yellow dots). Hubble
found less embedded stars (specks of green) and stars in the foreground (blue). Stellar winds from
clusters of newborn stars scattered throughout the cloud etched all of the well-dened ridges and
Located 1,500 light-years away from Earth, the Orion nebula is the brightest star in the sword of
the hunter constellation. The cosmic cloud is also our closest massive star-formation factory, and
astronomers suspect that it contains about 1,000 young stars.
This image is a false-colour composite, in which light detected at wavelengths of 0.43, 0.50, and
0.53 microns is blue. Light with wavelengths of 0.6, 0.65, and 0.91 microns is green. Light of 3.6
microns is orange, and 8-micron light is red.
Spitzer and Hubble Create Colorful Masterpiece
NASA, ESA, T. Megeath (University of Toledo) and M. Robberto (STScI)
2001 image
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This is a series of images of Saturn, as seen at many different wavelengths, when the planet’s rings
were at a maximum tilt of 27 degrees toward Earth.
Between March and April 2003, researchers took full advantage to study the gas giant at maximum
tilt. They used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to capture detailed images of Saturn’s Southern
Hemisphere and the southern face of its rings.
The telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 used 30 lters to snap these images . The lters span
a range of wavelengths.
Various wavelengths of light allow researchers to see important characteristics of Saturn’s
atmosphere. Particles in Saturn’s atmosphere reect different wavelengths of light in discrete ways,
causing some bands of gas in the atmosphere to stand out vividly in an image, while other areas
will be very dark or dull. One image cannot stand by itself because one feature may have several
interpretations. In fact, only by combining and comparing these different images, in a set such as
this one, can researchers interpret the data and better understand the planet.
By examining the hazes and clouds present in these images, researchers can learn about the
dynamics of Saturn’s atmosphere. Scientists gain insight into the structure and gaseous composition
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of Saturn’s clouds via inspection of images such as these taken by the Hubble telescope. Over
several wavelength bands, from infrared to ultraviolet, these images reveal the properties and
sizes of aerosols in Saturn’s gaseous makeup. For example, smaller aerosols are visible only in the
ultraviolet image, because they do not scatter or absorb visible or infrared light, which have longer
wavelengths. By determining the characteristics of the atmosphere’s constituents, researchers
can describe the dynamics of cloud formation. At certain visible and infrared wavelengths, light
absorption by methane gas blocks all but the uppermost layers of Saturn’s atmosphere, which
helps researchers discern clouds at different altitudes. In addition, when compared with images
of Saturn from seasons past (1991 and 1995), this view of the planet also offers scientists a better
comprehension of Saturn’s seasonal changes.
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The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635)
The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)
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