For 20 years, the Hubble Telescope has held human beings in awe, presenting the wonders of the universe in stunning detail. Recent Hubble discoveries include an ancient galaxy 13 billion light years away and observation of an asteroid collision and its aftermath. The replacement for Hubble, expected to function until 2014, is the James Webb Space Telescope. It will dwarf Hubble and see much farther back in time.
Hubble captures oldest galaxy ever found
Hubble Telescope astronomers announced Friday that they’ve seen the oldest object ever found in the universe. The New York times reports that light from a galaxy that took 13.1 billion years to reach Earth was detected in a Hubble image released earlier this year. At the time, the universe was just 600 million years old. Astronomers theorize that the object is among the first stars and galaxies ever born and no longer exists in the form observed by Hubble.
Hubble shoots explosive asteroid collision
Last week the Hubble Telescope shot the first photos of an asteroid collision. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the images offer clues about what to expect when asteroids slam together. The data could help scientists devise a plan to deflect an asteroid that threatens Earth. Astronomers figured a rock about 10 to 16 feet wide smashed into a larger asteroid at about 11,200 mph. The detonation was compared to the power of a small nuclear blast. The smaller rock vaporized and pressure swept the debris behind the surviving asteroid into a comet-like tail.
The James Webb Space Telescope
The successor to the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be sent to a stable point in space called a Lagrange point 940,000 miles from Earth — four times farther than the moon. Lagrange points are areas in space where gravity from the Sun and Earth intersect. The James Webb Space Telescope will orbit this point. From this fixed position, operating at a temperature of absolute zero, its two-story tall mirror will be able to observe the birth of the universe and open a new era of space exploration.