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Where did we come from? Are we alone? The web is searching for answers

When the Hubble Telescope was launched into space in April 1990, there was no indication that it would become the world’s most important eye over the next three decades. Ba! In the first months after launch, scientists were devastated. Images from Hubble were out of focus. It was soon, and Hubble would turn into a cosmic catastrophe and a giant image problem NASA.

It was Service Mission 1 dispatched in 1993 that helped, as NASA astronauts installed a COSTAR module inside the telescope that fixed the Hubble telescope’s optical glitch. Only then, three years after the launch, the first wonderful (perfectly sharp) images of the universe were obtained.

Now the next generation telescope and Hubble’s next unofficial telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, have flown into space. It’s more powerful, more advanced, and even more expensive than Hubble, but it should allow you to probe into space more.

On this occasion, we remember the most beautiful (and most famous) images of the sky that Hubble was able to obtain. Webb should be able to get more impressive photos soon.

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope Foot. NASA, ESA, J. Hester, A. Lol (Arizona State University)

It couldn’t be different. The first fire is the famous Crab Nebula, the first object that French astronomer Charles Messier cataloged (Messier’s catalog) – hence the name nebula today (M1). It is the remnant of a supernova explosion (observed on Earth in 1054), that is, a cloud of gas thrown out by a star.

The image of the nebula captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is the most beautiful picture of the nebula in visible light. To this day, when reading about M1, we usually only see this Hubble image.

Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104, M104, NGC 4594)Sombrero Galaxy (Messier 104, M104, NGC 4594) Foot. NASA/Hubble Heritage Team

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Number 2 and another plate that every fan of astronomy has surely seen more than once. The Sombrero Galaxy (M104) is one of the most symmetrical and “circular” galaxies discovered to date. Due to its position relative to Earth, its very bright core is partially obscured by a strip of non-radioactive optical material, making M104 similar to a sombrero to some. The image above – taken of course by the Hubble Space Telescope – is one of the best shots of this galaxy ever.

Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula

Pillars of Creation in the Eagle NebulaPillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula come in. NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

The following image is again one of the most famous images of the universe ever made. The so-called “pillars of creation” are giant clouds of matter (mainly oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur) inside the Eagle Nebula, where new stars are forming today. The first version of this image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. After installing the modern CCD (Wide Field Camera 3) camera in May 2009, the scientists decided to take another image, this time much better, which was published in 2015. So far None of the telescopes have produced better.

UGC 1810 and UGC 1813 . galaxies

UGC 1810 and UGC 1813 . galaxiesUGC 1810 and UGC 1813 . galaxies come in. NASA, European Space Agency and Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Another image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope shows us how surprising space can sometimes be. The image shows UGC 1813 and UGC 1810, two galaxies that pass close to each other as they travel through spacetime.

Such a close encounter disturbed their gravitational fields, meaning that UGC 1813, which is five times smaller and less massive (below the frame) was deformed and began contact with its larger neighbor with a distinctive bridge. As a result, UGC 1810 slowly “sucks up” the material from the younger companion. Like the collision of galaxies, this process causes new stars to form rapidly.

“Hubble Heritage Field”

Hubble Legacy Field - the largest detailed picture of the universeHubble Legacy Field – the largest detailed picture of the universe come in. NASA, the European Space Agency, G. Illingworth and D.Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), and K. Team

The above image was published by NASA and the European Space Agency relatively recently in 2019. At first glance, it looks bland and uninteresting. Just a random picture of stars in the sky. This is a wrong impression. The white dots visible in the frame are not stars but galaxies. Image only after downloading to disc the computer The magnifier shows how many galaxies are in one image (you can download it in this place).

How much exactly? Several hundreds? number. Much more. Scientists counted – there are exactly … 265,000. Yes, hundreds of thousands of galaxies like the Milky Way, which can contain billions of stars and billions of planets in one picture. Every galaxy is different and every one is unique. However, it is more impressive factThat the image covers only a small part of the sky, comparable to the size of the Moon that we observe from Earth.

Comparing the size of the Hubble Heritage Field and the MoonComparing the size of the Hubble Heritage Field and the Moon come in. Old Hubble Field Image: NASA, ESA, and c. Ellingworth and Dr. Maggie (University of California, Santa Cruz); Moon image: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Arizona State University

It took 16 years to develop the “Hubble Heritage Field” and is today the most detailed image of the sky in history. It is also the most detailed image that can be obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists are convinced that this is all that can be “squeezed out” from a device that has been in use for three decades. Only the James Webb Space Telescope allows for better images. Then it will likely turn out that more galaxies can be found in the same part of the sky. Some may be too dark to be seen by the Hubble telescope’s smaller observations.

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The James Webb Space Telescope will detect infrared radiation

Finally, it’s worth noting that while Webb will allow us to open our eyes to the universe on a much larger scale and is often referred to as Hubble’s successor, it really isn’t. Officially, the immediate successor will be the planned ATLAST telescope (if built). James Webb will mainly detect infrared (rather than visible) radiation, and will therefore only take on part of Hubble’s missions.


Among other things, thanks to infrared observations, the Webb telescope will allow us to look much further into space. It will allow you to see galaxies at a greater distance, and therefore at an earlier stage of evolution. While W Case Hubble’s limit was the period of formation of modern galaxies, and Webb would see even the formation of the most primitive galaxies out there, a period when star clusters began to form into more regular shapes.

In addition, the infrared observations mean that Webb will record the light that penetrated through the cosmic dust clouds, which form an impenetrable barrier in the observations in visible light. Webb will also see more because it will have a much larger primary mirror (6.5 meters in Webb’s telescope and 2.4 meters in Hubble). As a result, it will gather more light, see dark objects and have much better resolving power.

Space Telescope - ExplainerSpace Telescope – Explainer Foot. NASA via AP

The coming years of observations of the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope promise to be very impressive. More about the launch the new The search tool and the telescope itself You can read on the main page