By Jonny Lupsha, News Editor
A computer error took Hubble’s systems offline for a month. Now the telescope is back online and is already sending new images of distant galaxies to Earth. Its namesake advanced astronomy 100 years ago.
The Hubble Space Telescope suffered a computer anomaly in June that shut it down for more than a month. On July 17, it came back online and resumed its exploration of space, returning newly taken images of distant spiral galaxies. During its 32-year mission, although Hubble had several operational issues, it documented and returned incredible images from outer space.
Little is said about the man who gave the telescope its name for a long time. In his video series Living Hubble: Exploring the Milky WayDr. David M. Meyer, professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University, explained Edwin Hubble’s contributions to the world of astronomy.
Prepare for success
âDespite his passion for astronomy since elementary school, [Edwin] Hubble first trained to be a lawyer and won a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford in England, âsaid Dr Meyer. âAfter returning to the United States, he decided to make astronomy his career and completed his doctorate. thesis at the University of Chicago in 1917. When Hubble returned to the United States in 1919, after serving in World War I, he was offered a position at the Mount Wilson Observatory.
According to Dr. Meyer, it was nothing short of serendipity. The Mount Wilson Observatory had recently completed work on its 100-inch telescope, which at the time was the largest telescope in the world. It will remain the world’s largest telescope until 1949. Interested in nebulous objects that exhibited spiral shapes or elliptical symmetry in the night sky, Hubble used the Mount Wilson telescope to observe them.
“Of these objects, then called nebulae, the brightest was known as the Large Andromeda Spiral Nebula,” said Dr Meyer. âThis object has become Hubble’s key target in its quest to determine the distance and true nature of the so-called spiritual nebulae. Using the 100-inch telescope, he was able to resolve some of the bright stars in the Andromeda Nebula.
Edwin Hubble’s biggest breakthrough was realizing that some of the stars he observed were in fact pulsating stars known as Cepheid variables. After careful consideration, variations in the brightness of these stars can be used to determine their distance from Earth.
“In a landmark article presented in 1925, Hubble showed that the Andromeda Cepheids indicate that what was thought to be a spiral nebula is actually a galaxy of stars much more distant than the Milky Way,” the Milky Way said. Dr Meyer. âAt its distance of 2.5 million light years, Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. With this discovery, the Milky Way is recognized as one galaxy among many galaxies. “
A more literal reason for the name of the Hubble Telescope occurred after this discovery. As he continued his observation, Dr Hubble captured and compiled highly detailed photos of many other galaxies. Dr Meyer said they have revealed that the vast majority of large galaxies closest to the Milky Way exhibit spiral shapes or elliptical symmetry.
“Based on these observations, he developed the so-called ‘tuning fork’ classification system for elliptical and spiral galaxies,” said Dr Meyer. âElliptical galaxies range from more spherical to more flattened and cigar-shaped. In general, all elliptical galaxies are made up of old stars, lack abundant gas clouds, and have very little or no ongoing star formation.
Edited by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily