Hubble in trouble

Who didn't fall in love with Hubble after seeing her fabulous photos through the eyes of her scope? A few years ago she was in dire trouble and astronauts were able to patch her. Now Hubble has a new problem. One of her gyros is on the fritz. Of her 6, only 2 work and she needs 3 to operate best. Hubble has to last at least another 2-1/2 years when her successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be deployed.

Hubble's fist images sent back in 1990 were fuzzy and nearly unusable, but through the years, Hubble's captures became crisp, clear, colorful. Pictured here is the iconic Pillars of Creation nestled in Orion's Eagle Nebula.

In 2009, everyone worried Hubble was on her last legs when her instruments started failing. Hubble's prospects were pretty bleak. In space, astronaut John Grunsfeld and his team installed a wide-field camera that sees from the ultraviolet all the way into the near infrared and added a state-of-the-art ultraviolet spectrograph that sniffs out the chemicals of nearby stars and galaxies." They also replaced one of two computers and installed a docking system for when Hubble's days are over, in addition to other upgrades. These repairs that gave Hubble years of extra life have proved invaluable.

There will be bigger and more advanced scopes, but Hubble is the one that captured our imaginations and opened the universe to the earthlings.

CAPTION: These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula. The aptly named Pillars of Creation, featured in this stunning Hubble image, are part of an active star-forming region within the nebula and hide newborn stars in their wispy columns.

Although this is not Hubble’s first image of this iconic feature of the Eagle Nebula, it is the most detailed. The blue colors in the image represent oxygen, red is sulfur, and green represents both nitrogen and hydrogen. The pillars are bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young stars located just outside the frame. The winds from these stars are slowly eroding the towers of gas and dust.

Stretching roughly 4 to 5 light-years, the Pillars of Creation are a fascinating but relatively small feature of the entire Eagle Nebula, which spans 70 by 55 light-years. The nebula, discovered in 1745 by the Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux, is located 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens. With an apparent magnitude of 6, the Eagle Nebula can be spotted through a small telescope and is best viewed during July. A large telescope and optimal viewing conditions are necessary to resolve the Pillars of Creation.

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)