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Kodachrome Enhanced Hubble

Enhanced Hubble

The number of visitors to this site skyrocketed this week.  Overnight, my daily hits count doubled.  I was thinking that people were finally learning to appreciate my rather mediocre and mildly entertaining writing skills.  But it was all just a fluke of coincidence and most visitors left as quickly as they came.  I’m pretty sure once they saw an article or two they decided to hightail it out of here before they wound up on somebody’s watch list for visiting a web site so unpatriotic.

It turns out all the extra visitors were attracted to an image I used on one of my articles from the Hubble telescope.  You remember Hubble.  It’s the nearly twenty year old space based telescope the size of a twenty year old city bus and about a million times more expensive.  It was launched into space back in April of 1990 and was an immediate failure.  Its optics was severely flawed.  It languished in space for three years.  It didn’t even have the practicality of a paperweight out in the weightlessness of space.

One good thing about the Hubble was that it was designed to be serviced in space so a mission was planned to give the telescope corrective lenses.  In December of 1993, after its first service, the telescope was repaired and its full effectiveness realized.  Beyond the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere and in the absence of any background light, Hubble took images of space sharp enough to cut through time.  Literally, the Hubble could help unlock secrets of the big bang that led to the creation of the universe.

There were three other service machines to the Hubble prior to the 2003 accident when space shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry into the atmosphere.  With concerns of safety taking the forefront, the Hubble was sentenced to that giant scrap heap in the sky.  NASA management felt that the benefits of improving the Hubble didn’t outweigh the risk and additional servicing machines were scrubbed.  Only after a massive public outcry did NASA give the green light for one last servicing machine to the telescope and in May 2009 the space shuttle Atlantis made the final voyage to Hubble for the fifth and final round of improvements.

About a month ago, NASA released some of the photos from the last round of improvements.  The images are stunning.  If the service mission back in 1993 was the equivalent of giving Hubble corrective lenses, this latest mission is the equivalent of giving Hubble bionic vision.  It is hoped that this will keep Hubble functional until 2014 when its replacement, the James Webb, is parked in Earth’s orbit.  At the end of its life, Hubble will be pulled back down to Earth in a controlled reentry that will help guarantee that any of its components that survive the burn through the atmosphere will splash down in the middle of the ocean.

Until then, and long after, we will have Hubble’s enhanced images to enjoy.  While Hubble may not be quite strong enough to spy on the inhabitants on the planet Vulcan, it can deliver some of the most remarkable images of space we have seen yet.  Galaxies at the edge of the universe are now being brought to you and me in Kodachrome enhanced NASA Technicolor.

I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that all of these new people coming to my blog are not interested in anything I have to say.  The visitors come, look at the pretty picture, and then are gone that quick.  I really can’t blame them though.  I’ve done the same thing myself.  In fact, I think that’s how I got the Hubble picture in the first place.  Come to think of it, it is how I get all of my pictures.

Friday, October 9, 2009 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. Funny. I read in an article today the expression for “oops” at NASA is “somebody forgot to carry the 1”. I did that a lot in math class… nice pic! Sometimes I wish I were born just a few hundred more years into the future…

    Comment by Jason | Saturday, October 10, 2009 | Reply

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