Hubble-sjónaukinn
Hubble-sjónaukinn. Mynd: ESA.

Þann 24. apríl 1990 var Hubble-geimsjónaukanum skotið á loft með geimferjunni Discovery og komið á braut um Jörðu. Allar götur síðan hefur maí-mánuður verið nokkurs konar afmælismánuður sjónaukans og fyrir utan allar aðrar myndir sem hann hefur gefið af sér hafa stjórnendur hans ávallt tilnefnt eina nýja mynd í byrjun maí sem táknræna afmælismynd þess árs.

Þrítugasta afmælismynd sjónaukans er að sjálfsögðu stórglæsileg en hún sýnir stjörnuþokurnar og nágrannana NGC 2014 og NGC 2020 sem eru hluti hinnar gríðarstóru Magellan-sjörnuþoku á suðurhvelinu og eru í um 163 þúsund ljósára fjarlægð. Myndin, sem sést hér bæði fyrir ofan og í Instagram-færslunni hér fyrir neðan, hefur hlotið gælunafnið „Geimrifið“ vegna þess að hin rauða NGC 2014 þykir minna á kóralrif í stjörnuhafi geimsins.

Í tilefni afmælisins settu starfsmenn Bandarísku geimvísindastofnunarinnar, NASA, einnig upp sérstaka 30-mynda Hubble-ljósmyndasýningu á Flicr auk þess að búa til afmælisvef þar sem gestir geta slegið inn sinn eigin afmælisdag og kemur þá upp mynd sem Hubble tók á þeim degi. Hún verður því héðan í frá afmælisgeimmynd þess sem það gerir! Smelltu hér til að uppgötva þína einu sönnu Hubble-mynd.

Nýr sjónauki tekur við að ári

Þess má geta til fróðleiks að Hubble-sjónaukanum hefur ekki verið viðhaldið síðan 2009 þegar fimmta og síðasta viðhaldsferðin til hans var farin. Hafa menn því æ síðan átt von á að gæði afurða hans taki að minnka sökum hrörnunar og bilana. Óhjákvæmilega verða það örlög hans að lokum að hætta störfum og síðan „deyja“ vegna viðhaldsskorts. En úthald hans hefur komið mörgum á óvart og hafa gæði mynda frá honum enn sem komið er haldið sér vel.

Á næsta ári stendur hins vegar til að koma nýjum og enn öflugri sjónauka á braut um Jörðu til að taka við verki Hubble og útvíkka það. Hefur sá verið nefndur Webb-sjónaukinn sem er stytting á fullu heiti hans, James Webb Space Telescope. Er hann nefndur í höfuðið á James E. Webb sem var einn helsti stjórnandi og frumkvöðull NASA á árunum 1961 til 1968. Webb-sjónaukanum átti upphaflega að fara á braut um Jörðu 2018 en eins og títt er um geimferðaplön frestaðist það vegna tæknimála. Nú stendur til að skjóta honum upp 30. mars 2021.

Hér fyrir neðan má svo sjá sjö nýjustu Instagram-færslur NASA sem tengjast Hubble og eru þær að sjálfsögðu hver annarri fróðlegri.

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#Hubble30 A colorful image resembling a cosmic version of an undersea world teeming with stars is being released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope's 30 years of viewing the wonders of space. In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the "Cosmic Reef," because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars. Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters. The nebula's sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material. For more information, follow the link in our bio. Credits: NASA, ESA & STScI

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#Hubble30 (2019) In celebration of the 29th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers used Hubble to capture this festive, colorful look at the tentacled Southern Crab Nebula. The nebula, officially known as Hen 2-104, is located several thousand light-years from Earth. It appears to have two nested hourglass-shaped structures that were sculpted by a whirling pair of stars in a binary system. The duo consists of an aging red giant star and a burned-out star, a white dwarf. The red giant is shedding its outer layers. Some of this ejected material is attracted by the gravity of the companion white dwarf. The result is that both stars are embedded in a flat disk of gas stretching between them. This belt of material constricts the outflow of gas so that it only speeds away above and below the disk. The result is an hourglass-shaped nebula. The bubbles of gas and dust appear brightest at the edges, giving the illusion of crab-leg structures. These "legs" are likely to be the places where the outflow slams into surrounding interstellar gas and dust, or possibly material which was earlier lost by the red giant star. For more information, follow the link in our bio. Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

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#HubbleFriday This sparkling spiral galaxy looks almost stretched across the sky in this new image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Known as NGC 4100, the galaxy boasts a neat spiral structure and swirling arms speckled with the bright blue hue of newly formed stars. Like so many of the stunning images of galaxies we enjoy today, this image was captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). This remarkable instrument was installed in 2002, and, with some servicing by intrepid astronauts, is still going strong. For more information, follow the link in our bio. Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA) Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ho #NASA #Hubble #Friday #space #science #astronomy #universe #telescope #cosmos #galaxy

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The weather forecast for the super-hot, Jupiter-size planet WASP-79b is steamy humidity, scattered clouds, iron rain, and yellow skies. Hubble teamed up with the Magellan Consortium's Magellan II Telescope in Chile to analyze the atmosphere of this planet, which orbits a star that is hotter and brighter than our Sun, and is located at a distance of 780 light-years from Earth in the constellation Eridanus. Among exoplanets (planets that encircle stars beyond our Sun), WASP-79b is among the largest ever observed. Hubble's observations of WASP-79b showed that there is water vapor in WASP-79b's atmosphere. However, the big surprise (revealed by the Magellan observations) is that the planet's sky doesn't have any evidence for an atmospheric phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, where certain colors of light are dispersed by very fine dust particles in the upper atmosphere. Rayleigh scattering is what makes Earth's skies blue by scattering the shorter (bluer) wavelengths of sunlight. Because WASP-79b doesn't seem to have this phenomenon, the daytime sky would likely be yellowish, researchers say. For more information, follow the link in our bio. Credit: Artist's Illustration: NASA, ESA, and L. Hustak (STScI), Science: NASA, ESA, and K. Sotzen (JHU/APL) #NASA #Hubble #Space #science #astronomy #universe #telescope #cosmos

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Forsíðumynd: NASA.