NASA Provides Venerable Hubble Hardware to Smithsonian

November 19, 2009,

NASA's Wide Field and Planetary 2 camera on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Space Hall. Courtesy: Smithsonian
(PhysOrg.com) -- Two key instruments from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have a new home in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington after being returned to Earth aboard space shuttle Atlantis last May.

Astronauts brought back the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, or WFPC-2, and the Corrective Optics Axial Replacement, or COSTAR, after more than 15 years in . The camera returned the iconic images that now adorn posters, album covers, the Internet, classrooms and science text books worldwide.

"This was the camera that saved Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "I have looked forward for a long time to stand in front of this very instrument while on display to the public."

After Hubble's launch and deployment aboard the shuttle in 1990, scientists realized the telescope's primary mirror had a flaw, known as a spherical aberration. The outer edge of the mirror was ground too flat by a depth of 2.2 microns, roughly equal to one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair. This tiny flaw resulted in fuzzy images because some of the light from the objects being studied was scattered.

Hubble's first servicing mission provided the telescope with hardware that basically acted as eye glasses. Launched in December 1993 aboard space shuttle Endeavour, the mission added the WFPC-2, about the size of a baby grand piano, and COSTAR, about the size of a telephone booth. The WFPC-2 had the optical fix built in, while the COSTAR provided the optical correction for other Hubble instruments.

The WFPC-2 made more than 135,000 observations of celestial objects from 1993 to 2009. The camera was the longest serving and most prolific instrument aboard Hubble.

"For years the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 has been taking pictures of the universe," said John Trauger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Today, we are taking pictures of the WFPC-2 and I guess if there was ever a camera that deserves to have its picture taken, this is it."

The Hubble instruments will be on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Space Hall through mid-December. They then will travel to Southern California to go on temporary display at several venues. In March 2010, the instruments will return to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where they will take up permanent residency.

JPL designed and built the WFPC-2. The COSTAR instrument was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo. The is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The project is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., in Washington.

Provided by JPL/ (news : web)

Explore further: New Science Instruments for Hubble

Related Stories

New Science Instruments for Hubble

October 16, 2007

To enhance the Hubble Space Telescope’s science capabilities, two new instruments – the Wide Field Camera 3 and Cosmic Origins Spectrograph - will be installed during the fifth and final shuttle servicing mission to the ...

Engineers Restart Hubble Camera

July 3, 2006

NASA engineers successfully activated the Advanced Camera for Surveys at 9:12 a.m. EDT Friday aboard the agency's Hubble Space Telescope. Checkout was completed at 10:20 a.m. EDT with science observations scheduled to resume ...

NASA Invites Public to Choose Hubble's Next Discovery

January 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA is giving everyone the opportunity to use the world's most celebrated telescope to explore the heavens and boldly look where the Hubble Space Telescope has never looked before.

Hubble astronauts begin training

February 13, 2007

The U.S. astronauts selected for the next servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope are beginning their training this week.

Recommended for you

A fleeting moment in time

January 22, 2019

The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time—around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO's Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ...

Revealing the black hole at the heart of the galaxy

January 22, 2019

Including the powerful ALMA into an array of telescopes for the first time, astronomers have found that the emission from the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the galaxy comes from a smaller region ...

How hot are atoms in the shock wave of an exploding star?

January 21, 2019

A new method to measure the temperature of atoms during the explosive death of a star will help scientists understand the shock wave that occurs as a result of this supernova explosion. An international team of researchers, ...

New eclipsing cataclysmic variable discovered

January 21, 2019

Using the Mobile Astronomical System of Telescope-Robots (MASTER), an international team of astronomers has detected a new eclipsing cataclysmic variable. The newfound object, designated MASTER OT J061451.70–272535.5, is ...

The disintegrating exoplanet K2-22b

January 21, 2019

Exoplanet surveys have yielded many surprises over the years, and the discovery of "disintegrating" exoplanets was one of them. These are planets that produce asymmetric shapes in the dips of the light curves seen as they ...

Total lunar eclipse woos sky watchers

January 21, 2019

An unusual set of celestial circumstances came together over Sunday night and the wee hours of Monday for sky watchers in Europe, Africa and the Americas, where the moon was fully obscured before lighting up again with a ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.