Hubble’s Amazing Rescue: PBS is Making Science Sexy

Posted by Michael Pinto on Sep 19, 2009 in Science

This is a promotional video for the upcoming Nova episode Hubble’s Amazing Rescue which looks amazing. To me the irony of this documentary is that both NASA and PBS are examples of amazing government backed programs that deliver high quality results yet are terribly underrated and ultimately underfunded by constant budget cuts.

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How NASA Saved Hubble

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jul 1, 2009 in Science

It’s so easy to forget that when Hubble first launched in 1990 that it was a total disaster because the lens on the main mirror couldn’t focus — yet 19 years later it’s one of the best NASA success stories in recent history. This video tells he story of the team that replaced the mirror back in 1993. Here’s a before and after photo to show how much of an improvement the mirror fix made: Read more…

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Carbon Dioxide Discovered on an Extrasolar Planet

Posted by Michael Pinto on Dec 10, 2008 in Science

This is an artist's impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. The planet is a 'hot Jupiter,' which is so close to its parent star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. This type of observation is best done when the planet's orbit carries it behind the star (as seen from Earth), which allows an opportunity to subtract the light of the star alone (when the planet is blocked) from that of the star and planet together prior to eclipse. This allows astronomers to isolate the infrared emission of the planet and make spectroscopic observations that chemically analyZe the day side atmosphere. The planet is too hot for life, as we know it. But under the right conditions, on a more Earth-like world, carbon dioxide can indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life. This observation demonstrates that chemical biotracers can be detected by space telescope observations.

It’s amazing how every day we find more and more obvious clues that there may be other signs of life in he universe. This latest discovery shows that astronomers have detected carbon dioxide (a basic requirement for plants to perform photosynthesis) on a Jupiter sized planet. What’s great about this is that someday this technique may used to hunt for hints of life on an Earth like planet: Read more…

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Hubble Shines, But Gets No Respect

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 31, 2008 in Science

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is back in business. Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. The two galaxies happen to be oriented so that they appear to mark the number 10. The left-most galaxy, or the "one" in this image, is relatively undisturbed, apart from a smooth ring of starlight. It appears nearly edge-on to our line of sight. The right-most galaxy, the "zero" of the pair, exhibits a clumpy, blue ring of intense star formation.Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Livio (STScI)

Just a few days after coming back to life Hubble rewards us with the fantastic image above of a pair of double galaxies, and yet like some sad ignored family member will have to wait for a repair mission for a few months:

Revived Hubble snaps perfect picture

“The Hubble Space Telescope is working again, taking stunning cosmic photos after a breakdown a month ago. But the good news was quickly tempered by NASA’s announcement Thursday that a mission to upgrade the popular telescope will be delayed at least until May.

A key replacement part that is essential because of the telescope’s failure in September won’t be ready for at least six months. It was the latest twist in the long-running drama surrounding the 18-year-old space telescope — one that initially took only fuzzy photos, then when fixed, provided dazzling and scientifically significant pictures of space, including a new one NASA showed Thursday.”

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