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Thursday, 24 April 2008 20:11

18-year-old Hubble takes 59 images of colliding galaxies

NASA/ESA just released fifty-nine images of colliding galaxies taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. The images are now available, as of April 24, 2008, the eighteen-year anniversary of the launching of the Hubble by NASA’s space shuttle Discovery.

Most of the images taken by the Hubble, which is a joint operation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), are part of a project called Great Observatories All-sky LIRG Survey (GOALS).

The GOALS project involves such NASA telescopes as Hubble, Spitzer Space Observatory, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Galaxy Explorer.

These images are in much finer detail than older images produced by ground-based telescopes. In fact, individual star clusters can be identified, along with other dramatic features.

Interacting galaxies are processes that occur between galaxies. Two or more galaxies merge together, in just another of many ways that the Universe continues to evolve.

Such mergers increase the number of activities within the grouping, when compared with isolated galaxies such as our Milky Way galaxy. Oftentimes, such mergers produce enormous numbers of new stars, and become the driving force behind the creation of quasars. Many other cosmic phenomena also occur when galaxies intertwine.

Because of the strong pull of gravity between the two galaxies, some existing stars will also be pulled apart.

To view this Hubble collection and to read more about Hubble’s images of colliding galaxies, please go to the ESA news release “Galaxies Gone Wild!”

Hubble was launched from the Kennedy Space Center (Florida, U.S.A.) on April 24, 1990. It flew onboard the space shuttle Discovery, which was crewed by the NASA STS-31 astronauts.

A final repair and servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope is planned by NASA for October 8, 2008. The STS-125 crew will fly aboard the NASA space shuttle Atlantis for this servicing mission (SM) to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), called HST SM-04.

If the repair and servicing mission is successful, Hubble is expected to remain active at least through 2013.

Its partial successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is expected to be launched no earlier than June of that year.

As a collaborative effort between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb space observatory, which will observe in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, will be launched aboard an Adriane 5 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

These new Hubble photographs are especially important to our ancestors billions of years from now because our Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the Andrdomeda galaxy in about five billion years.

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