Written by By Faye Flam, CNN
The Hubble telescope has performed a selfie of Jupiter and Saturn, the biggest planets in our solar system.
After a billion and a half years in orbit, the so-called Great Observatories received a courtesy visit from the Hubble Space Telescope yesterday, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It was its first time in orbit since it received a major repair in 2009.
The Hubble telescope was upgraded to what NASA calls a Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 2017. Hubble volunteers used their skills to find bright objects in the faint light surrounding the previously observed Ultra Deep Field.
A line from Pluto is shown in the center of the cluster of four planets, in this Hubble Deep Field image. Photo: NASA
Once they located the objects that made up the Ultra Deep Field in 2008, the Hubble team examined the brightness and located them to see what galaxies were surrounding them. “All those things to us are just dots and dots until we point it at the actual objects,” said Anne Poirier, project scientist for the Wide Field Camera 3 at Goddard Space Flight Center.
A thousand frames of HD video was captured by cameras on the Hubble telescope during the eleven-hour visit. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was also being used to capture the new images. The tiniest of stars in the Andromeda galaxy are also featured in this image. Photo: NASA
Hubble’s last checkup in 2009 didn’t go quite as planned. The telescope experienced a glitch. “When we moved the telescope over to repair it … it didn’t find the issue and actually wandered out of its orbit until we finished the repair,” Poirier told CNN. “It was hard to say, ‘Thank you.’ You really don’t appreciate the resources that we have to do this because it is a team effort.”
Hubble is active today — many older telescopes are now in service. Poirier says Hubble is being used more than ever before.
“You can’t really know about a planet until you’re able to see the atmosphere,” Poirier said. The Hubble is just getting around to taking a good look.
That one image shouldn’t tell us too much about these alien worlds, because it is so faint. You need more powerful cameras and telescopes to see a whole planet, and NASA has promised to send six full-sized, ground-based telescopes to Jupiter and Saturn to help in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.