For over 25 years, Hubble Space Telescope has become a staple name for bringing us the crystal-clear images of nearby galaxies as well as discovering whole scores of galaxies in seemingly empty spots of the night sky.
Yet some of the lesser known images, though perhaps less spectacular on the first sight, depict monumental stellar phenomena that spark imagination.
How about a picture of two galaxies colliding? And can you also see the dragon in the picture of the Veil Nebula? The Orion Nebula, on the other hand, seems to harbor a shape of something between a dolphin and a crocodile.
Of course, astronomers usually offer much less colorful depictions focused on dust and gasses. But sometimes even the scientists let their imagination run. Like in case of the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 that, according to NASA, “seems to be smiling.”
Despite its current exemplary reputation, Hubble Telescope actually looked more like a failure for better part of its development and early career. It was planned to launch in 1983, but got delayed until 1990, partially because of the Challenger disaster, but also due to technical and budget problems. It cost some $2.5 billion to construct, more than six times more than initially estimated.
When the Discovery shuttle finally carried it into orbit, astronomers found its optical system had a flaw. Its main mirror was too flat at the perimeter by 2.2 microns, which is less than 0.00009 of an inch. That was enough to drastically decrease its resolution. During Hubble’s first servicing mission in 1993, a device, working on a similar principle as a pair of glasses, was installed to correct for the optical imperfection.
Since then, and possibly until 2020, we’ll enjoy the sharp images for which the telescope became famous.