Hubble continues to deliver as James Webb Telescope captures first images of universe

  • Since its launch in 1990, the The Hubble Space Telescope made groundbreaking achievements in astronomy.
  • New AndMy Webb Space Telescope is popular, but Hubble has skills, like capturing visible and ultraviolet light, that Webb doesn’t.
  • The two telescopes will combine to study the cosmos in even greater detail.

For three decades, the The Hubble Space Telescope delivered breathtaking cosmic views.

As the world raves about the new James Webb Space TelescopeAging Hubble continues to be an astronomical workhorse, providing important observations of the universe, while Webb soaks up the limelight.

But as a pair, telescopes are even more powerful than they are alone. Together, space telescopes will give astronomers a more complete view and understanding of galaxies, stars and planets than ever before.

“The Webb Space Telescope is good news for astronomy, and good news for the Hubble Space Telescope as well, as Webb and Hubble enhance and complement each other’s unique capabilities,” said project lead scientist Jennifer Wiseman. for the Hubble Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space. Flight Center, Insider told.

“Hubble’s scientific return should be strong, and even improved, throughout this decade as Webb and Hubble unveil the universe together.”

Hubble deployed from Discovery in 1990.

Hubble deployed from Discovery in 1990.


Since Galileo built his telescope in 1609, astronomers turned those tools skyward. Astronomers have developed these instruments significantly over time, allowing them to peer even deeper into the universe.

But their observations were limited by Earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs light before it reaches ground-based telescopes. Enter space telescopes. By being well above the distortion of the Earth’s atmosphere and far from light-polluted cities, observatories like Hubble provide, as NASA says so“an unobstructed view of the universe.”

Hubble was launched on the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. Although it was originally slated only for 15 years of serviceit still traverses space approximately 340 miles above Earth’s surface, circling the planet every 97 minutes.

“Hubble is in good technical condition, even 32 years after launch, with a strong suite of scientific instruments on board,” Wiseman said.


The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.

NASA, Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University)

Over the years, Hubble images have played an important role in our understanding of the universe. He provided proof of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and measure the rate of expansion of the universe. Hubble also helped discover and characterize the mysterious dark energy causing this expansion by separating the galaxies. Among his most iconic achievements is his image of the Pillars of Creation, taken in 1995, which shows newly formed stars shining in the Eagle Nebula.

And Hubble is still taking stunning photos, even after Webb began providing images of its scientific observations in July. Recently, Hubble took an image of starry NGC 6540a globular cluster in the constellation Sagittarius.

A globular cluster NGC 6540 in the constellation Sagittarius, which was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

A globular cluster NGC 6540 in the constellation Sagittarius, which was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

ESA/Hubble and NASA, R. Cohen

Both Webb and Hubble are space telescopes, but they differ in many ways. Hubble sees ultraviolet light, visible light, and a small slice of infrared, while Webb will primarily look at the universe in infrared.

Webb – which is 100 times more powerful than Hubble – will be able to peer into objects whose light was emitted more than 13.5 billion years ago, which Hubble cannot see. In effect, this light has been shifted into the infrared wavelengths that Webb is specifically designed to detect.

But because Webb was designed that way, it will also miss celestial objects in the visible and ultraviolet light that Hubble can see.

“In fact, Hubble is the only major-class observatory that can access UV wavelengths,” Wiseman said.

A collage shows side-by-side images from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes

A deep-field image from the Hubble Space Telescope, left, and a deep-field image from the James Webb Space Telescope, right.


While Webb has been branded as the successor to Hubble, the two space observatories will team up to unveil the universe together.

Wiseman indicates how they will provide information on how stars are born in cosmic dust clouds and disperse in most galaxies. “Hubble, for example, can detect and analyze in detail the searing blue and UV light from star-forming nebulae in nearby galaxies,” Wiseman said, adding, “It can be compared to the vigor of the formation of stars in the early universe as detected with Webb.”

The two space telescopes will also combine their gazes to peer into the atmospheres of other worldslooking for signs that they might harbor life.

Astronomers typically look for the ingredients that sustain life on Earth – liquid water, a continuous source of energy, carbon and other elements – when searching for vital planets. In 2001, Hubble carried out the first direct measurement of the atmosphere of an exoplanet.

“In our own galaxy, the understanding of the planets inside and beyond our own solar system will be greatly enhanced with the Webb and Hubble combo,” Wiseman said, adding, “Signatures of water, methane and other atmospheric constituents will be identified using the combined spectroscopic capabilities of Webb and Hubble.”

Artist's impression of a planet orbiting a yellow Sun-like star labeled HD 209458 - the first direct detection of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system.

In 2001, Hubble made the first direct detection of a world’s atmosphere orbiting a star beyond our solar system. An artist’s impression of the planet, which orbits a star called HD 209458.

G. Bacon (STScI/AVL)

And while Webb might be considered astronomy’s shiny new toy, Hubble’s Unique Capabilities in capturing visible and ultraviolet light still make it a sought-after tool for understanding the cosmos. “Hubble is currently at its peak in terms of science performance,” Wiseman said. That’s thanks to a team of NASA technical experts on the ground who monitor and quickly address any technical challenges that arise, she added.

“The number of proposals from scientists around the world who want to use Hubble has grown to more than 1,000 a year, with only the top fraction of these being selected for actual observations,” Wiseman said, adding, “Many between them complement the observations offered by Webb.”

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