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Servicing the Hubble Space Telescope

Week of February 10, 1997
screwdriver animation Tonight, with any luck, the Space Shuttle Discovery will be launched at 3:56 a.m. Eastern Time. On board are seven astronauts that will perform the second Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission. pliers animationThey are carrying with them two new scientific instruments that will open new windows on what we can see through the telescope.

NICMOS logo One instrument is called the Near Infrared Camera and Multiobject Spectrometer (NICMOS), which will be able to take images and spectra in the infrared. One of the main programs for NICMOS is to look for planets around nearby stars.

STIS logo The other instrument is called the Space Telescope Imagine Spectrograph. Like NICMOS, it will take both images and spectra, but in the ultraviolet. STIS will be looking at very hot objects, like burned out stars called white dwarfs, and active galaxies. Both instruments will be looking at supernova 1987A. There are also plans for both instruments to repeat the observations made in the Hubble Deep Field, which took images of galaxies that are farther away than have ever been seen before. The Deep Field was done using visible light, but NICMOS and STIS will look in the infrared and ultraviolet, to see how things look different.

Also on board Discovery is a new data recorder, which will allow much more data to be taken at the same time on HST, as well as a new Fine Guidance Sensor, which helps the telescope track on its targets.

The Space Telescope Science Institute has a page devoted to the mission. They also have a very nifty link to a page at the Marshall Space Flight Center that shows where the shuttle, Hubble, and various satellites are right now.

The Discovery Channel Online has a few pages devoted to the servicing mission as well.

On a personal note, I am going to be at the launch to wish it well. My current job is to analyze STIS data, so I am very excited about this. When I get back I will scan in pictures from the launch and link them from my homepage. Stay Tuned!

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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