Remember a few months back, when we were all excited about the Space Shuttle taking a crew of astronauts to fix and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)? At the time, it looked like the repairs worked well (as in, nothing obvious went wrong, electronics woke up and said “hi”, etc). However, until the instruments actually take data, one never knows.
Well, now we know.
The new and refurbished instruments officially kick astronomical butt.
Even better, I’ve been hearing rumors of killer numbers, at least for the imaging cameras — throughputs that are 15% better than measured from the ground, electronic read noises that are lower than before the instruments broke a few years back. I have no numbers on the spectrographs, but the press release photos show some nice looking spectra, which is a zillion percent improvement on the pre-repair state of the telescope, for which the only spectroscopic capabilities were grisms (which only the most studly of spectroscopists dare to use). Phil will probably have more, given his history with one of the refurbished spectrographs.
(For the near-infrared channel of the new imager WFC3, I can personally verify awesomeness. We got some imaging during the last month, and had to sign non-disclosure agreements that we would keep our mouths shut, which was nearly impossible because the data quality was insane.)
Anyways, everyone involved in making this happen should be very proud!