20 year Hubble anniversary

My favorite thing about showing up 3rd for searches of “Hubble” in Google image is that whenever Hubble is in the news, I know it pretty quickly thanks to the sharp increase in hits. (Right now the third result is some website that has swiped my Hubble image, but it still links back to FTSOS.) For instance, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Hubble.

The universe was a different-looking place 20 years ago. The most powerful optical telescopes on Earth could see only halfway across the cosmos. Estimates for the age of the universe disagreed by a big margin. Supermassive black holes were only suspected to be the powerhouses behind a rare zoo of energetic phenomena seen at great distances. Einstein’s cosmological constant, a hypothesized repulsive property of space, was merely a skeleton in the astrophysics closet.

But astronomy was kicked-started into fast-forward on April 24th, 1990 when NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope left the blurry skies of Earth for the stars. Tucked away inside the space shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay, the telescope was set free into low earth orbit on April 25th.

Of course, this naturally means eye candy on FTSOS.

Hubble in Imax

A short film about the history of Hubble and the images it captures – called “Hubble 3D” – premiered this past weekend.

But here are the money shots: The telescope’s new Wide Field Camera and infrared eye can look at– and shoot — stars, gas and dust 2.5 million light years out. Taking those photos and using advanced computer visualization, the film whisks viewers on scientifically realistic flights through time and space.

One rushes at, yes, warp speed (actually much faster) past the star Sirius, 50 trillion miles from Earth, to peer into the nursery of developing galaxies in the star cluster known as Orion’s Belt. A journey through our galaxy, the Milky Way, to neighboring Andromeda, reveals 2,000 galaxies and a massive black hole.

The article says Leonardo DiCaprio “ably” narrates the 43 minute film. Mayhaps one journalist doesn’t much like the actor.

The film is slated for wider Imax release for this coming weekend and then an even larger release in August. While it would be nice if everyone liked science for, well, the sake of science, there’s nothing wrong with a little eye candy. Especially in 3D.

Hubble

While my traffic has been way up since the Andreas Moritz incident, I know it isn’t going to stay that way. That’s why it’s especially disappointing that my Hubble contest post no longer shows up on Google images on the first page. It had been there for quite a long time, artificially boosting my stats, which in turn did raise the profile of FTSOS, if even only slightly. But since WordPress took me down for a couple days, that image has vanished from Google images. I suppose the best I can do is link back to it from time to time. More importantly, I suppose I can start making a few more posts about Hubble and Hubble news now.

But other than one of those slow news day stories, there doesn’t seem to be much out there. So in lieu of a real post, here is some eye candy.

1987 Supernova

Hubble captures Saturn’s aurorae

Two times every 30 years it is possible to view Saturn’s aurorae from where the Hubble telescope is positioned. Since the telescope will be out of commission 30 years from now, this is the only image it will ever take where each aurora can be viewed simultaneously.

The principle behind these aurorae is the same that’s behind the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

Hubble, giver of blog hits

Thanks to a spike in hits today on Hubble posts, I’ve gone and found that NASA released more Hubble images taken since the telescope’s recent upgrade. The first is one of the most recent images (and may as well just be a close-up of a past release). The second is older, but not blurry and generally ugly.

Update: I’m not sure if this one has just been released, but it’s the best I’ve seen so far.