The Hubble Space Telescope has beamed back fresh images of galaxies that NASA describes as “peculiar.”
The images are the first from Hubble since its reboot following a month-long loss of service during which scientists feared they may have lost the spacecraft for good.
Thankfully, a fix was issued last week, enabling Hubble to resume its work. On Monday NASA shared the first images since Hubble’s revival, both showing distant galaxies as part of a University of Washington project aimed at surveying “oddball galaxies scattered across the sky.”
The image on the left actually shows two galaxies, collectively known as ARP-MADORE2115-273 — no, it doesn’t have the catchiest name — and is described by NASA as a rare example of an interacting galaxy pair in the southern hemisphere.
“These Hubble observations provide Hubble’s first high-resolution glimpse at this intriguing system, which is located 297 million light-years away,” the space agency said. Astronomers originally believed this was a “collisional ring” system because of the head-on merger of two galaxies, but the data from Hubble reveals that the continuing interaction between the galaxies is much more complex, resulting in what NASA describes as “a rich network of stars and dusty gas.”
Meanwhile, the right image shows ARP-MADORE0002-503 (another easy-to-recall name!), which the space agency calls “a large spiral galaxy with unusual, extended spiral arms.” The galaxy is some 490 million light-years from Earth and its arms reach out to a radius of 163,000 light-years, making it three times more expansive than our Milky Way Galaxy, NASA said, adding that this one is notable for having three spiral arms whereas most disk galaxies usually have an even number.
Hubble is the length of a large school bus and was launched by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. The powerful telescope orbits about 340 miles (547 km) above Earth and, clear of our planet’s atmosphere that can block light from space, has been beaming back incredible images of distant places in our universe.
A mysterious glitch knocked the Hubble Space Telescope offline in June, prompting a huge effort by scientists to revive the 31-year-old spacecraft. The team managed to relaunch Hubble’s onboard science instruments at the weekend by switching to backup hardware.
Commenting on Hubble’s recent hitch, project leader Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington said, “I’ll confess to having had a few nervous moments during Hubble’s shutdown, but I also had faith in NASA’s amazing engineers and technicians.”
Dalcanton added, “Everyone is incredibly grateful, and we’re excited to get back to science.”
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