Hubble: still amazing after all these years

10 Sep
NGC 6302 (Butterfly Nebula, Bug Nebula) Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

NGC 6302 (Butterfly Nebula, Bug Nebula) Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

I love big, beautiful Hubble pictures, and these most recent ones are no exception. When I was working on the new astronomy exhibits at Griffith Observatory a few years ago, I marveled that I got paid to dig up spectacular images like this one. In a time where basic science rarely makes the local evening news, even these photos got a mention on the 11 pm news last night.

But though I’m awed by the pretty pictures, I’m also amazed that a nearly 20-year-old telescope continues to churn out amazing science and that NASA had the wisdom to continue to service such an incredible eyepiece into the universe. Somehow it generally seems easier to build something new without seeing potential in  a tune-up for an older instrument. (And– just to be clear– I’m not saying that we shouldn’t build the Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope— no relation to Webb of Science, BTW, though no quarrels with sharing a very good name).

I guess the Hubble is also reminding me how valuable refurbishing something old, but made with quality– like a well-made piece of furniture or the Birkenstock sandals I’ve worn to death over the past 4 summers– can be in the long run.

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