The Hubble Telescope is turning 21 and NASA is going to celebrate its birthday. Alcohol will not be involved.
Instead, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore pointed Hubble's eye at a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.
Hubble launched on April 24, 1990 aboard Discovery's STS-31 mission. Through the Hubble lens, astronomers have made extraordinary discoveries in galaxies previously unseen.
For 21 years, Hubble has profoundly changed our view of the universe, allowing us to see deep into the past while opening our eyes to the majesty and wonders around us, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.I was privileged to pilot space shuttle Discovery as it deployed Hubble. After all this time, new Hubble images still inspire awe and are a testament to the extraordinary work of the many people behind the world's most famous observatory.
The interaction between the two galaxies, named UGC 1810 and UGC 1813, was taken on Dec. 17, 2010, with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Arp 273 is in the constellation Andromeda and is roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth. The image shows the larger UGC1810 with a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of UGC1813 below it.
Researchers say the spiral patterns in the large galaxy are a tell-tale sign of interaction. The large, outer arm appears partially as a ring, a feature seen when interacting galaxies actually pass through one another.
NASA and the European Space Agency cooperatively use the Hubble. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope while The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. in Washington.
Hubble is America's gift to the world, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said in a statement. Its jaw-dropping images have rewritten the textbooks and inspired generations of schoolchildren to study math and science. It has been documenting the history of our universe for 21 years. Thanks to the daring of our brave astronauts, a successful servicing mission in 2009 gave Hubble new life. I look forward to Hubble's amazing images and inspiring discoveries for years to come.