Spectroscopy Returns to Hubble!

By Julianne Dalcanton | May 16, 2009 9:29 am

The various instrumental failures over the past few years had reduced Hubble to being a telescope that could only take images. Those images have been fantastically useful, scientifically. However, much of astrophysics requires spectroscopy, which analyzes how much light an object emits as a function of wavelength.

Andrew Feustel and John Grunsfeld have now successfully installed the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). UV spectroscopy has now returned! (provided the instrument actually, um, works).

They’re currently stowing the bit they took out to make room for COS, and then will move on to the very challenging repair of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). At this point, even if the two upcoming instrument repairs fail, the telescope is in great shape for many more years of science!

UPDATE: They just announced that ACS passed the “aliveness” test, finishing up ahead of schedule. Unbelievable.

  • Brad H

    Another telescope milestone passed yesterday – Spitzer used up the last of its Helium. The cryogenic mission is now over. RIP I guess, except for the warm mission (although
    personally I would call it the zombie phase – not out of any animus, but it just sounds
    cooler). There’s a certain amusing synchronism here – as we lose the far IR, we recover
    the UV.

  • Dinyar


    Not related, but you may have heard about the Austrian science ministers decision to pull out of CERN. As an Austrian physics student with an interest in particle physics I waned to ask if you could mention the petition by the Austrian Physical Society at http://sos.teilchen.at/petition/.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Charon

    That’s not entirely true. ACS/SBC has prisms, which can do spectroscopy. Not that having COS isn’t !!!AWESOME!!!!, but HST was still able to do some interesting spectroscopy even in its prior crippled state.

  • Brian

    I signed the petition a few days ago. Thanx for the information and the link.

  • Brian

    True, but COS has greatly enhanced capability in the ultraviolet.

  • Brian

    Phil Plait says that ACS is fixed, and they’re quitting early.

  • Julianne

    Charon — I didn’t mention the SBC because, well, have you ever tried to reduce that data? OY. But yeah, I should’ve given it a shout out for completeness — I was trying to post before rushing out the door in soccer mom mode. Just got back home, and ran straight to the computer to check what was going on.

    The astronauts sound incredibly chuffed about the success of this EVA. Kindof punchy, even. One of them just said “Hello tether!” to a piece of equipment. I don’t know if they packed margaritas for this trip, but they definitely deserve some after these past few days.

  • Tod R. Lauer

    STIS is back!

  • Charon

    Julianne – yes, I’ve reduced ACS/SBC prism data. Yes, it sucks to reduce. But it’s given me great science nonetheless.


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