Hubble Space Telescope

On March 9, 2002, the Hubble Space Telescope was released back into free flight by the astronauts of the shuttle Columbia, who completed a series of repairs and upgrades over the preceding 5 days.

Courtesy NASA.

At a press conference to be held at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time tomorrow, NASA will unveil the first pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). According to a space-agency statement, "The panoramic images dramatically demonstrate Hubble's increased ability to peer more deeply into the universe to make profound new discoveries."

Astronomers have been testing and calibrating the ACS since March 7th, when space-walking astronauts installed it during the fourth shuttle mission to service the 12-year-old telescope. "The ACS is working very well," says camera-team leader Holland Ford (Johns Hopkins University). "I think you will be impressed with the images."

Astronauts Servicing Hubble

During the fourth space walk of shuttle mission STS 109 in March 2002, astronauts James Newman (foreground) and Michael Massimino removed the Faint Object Camera. They later replaced it with the much more powerful Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Courtesy NASA.

The ACS is the orbiting observatory's first new visible-light camera in nine years; all the other new instruments installed since the first repair mission in 1993 have operated mainly at ultraviolet or infrared wavelengths. Compared with the telescope's workhorse, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, the ACS is designed to cover twice as much sky with vastly improved resolution and sensitivity.

Among those participating in tomorrow's unveiling at NASA Headquarters is astronomer-astronaut John M. Grunsfeld. In addition to making three space walks during last month's Hubble house call, he made two more outings during an earlier repair mission in December 1999. Before returning to Earth last month, Grunsfeld said he expected to see "remarkable views" from the ACS. On Tuesday afternoon we'll find out just how remarkable.


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