The images now flowing from the Hubble Space Telescope are simply stunning. Vast nebulae appear as delicate butterflies and the vast reaches of the universe are coming into new focus. All this comes after a feat of modern engineering and expertise as a rescue mission to the telescope last spring replaced two cameras and repaired broken equipment. The rescue mission cost approximately $1 billion, but the life of the orbiting telescope was extended at least five years.
No one envisioned this kind of longevity for Hubble when the telescope was first put into orbit in 1990. Named for astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953), the telescope's location in orbit around the earth avoids the distortions of the earth's atmosphere.
Now, with images streaming from the Hubble, scientists are elated and NASA is relieved. "The hair was standing up on the back of my neck to see the potential of this telescope," said John Grunsfeld, one of the astronauts who fixed the telescope back in the spring. Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute said, “We’re giddy with the quality of the data we’re getting." Astronaut Mike Massimino simply said, "Thank God, we didn't break it."
It is easy to see why. The images are simply amazing, even to a non-astronomer. These visions have never been seen by human eyes before. In these and so many other ways, this generation has glimpsed the grandeur of the creation like no generation before us.
One interesting facet of the publicity around the new images from Hubble is the inadequacy of the comments offered by so many. Consider this portion of an account by the Associated Press:
The butterfly photo shows details, such as gassy folds in what looks like butterfly wings, that the Hubble previously could not see, said Hubble senior scientist Dave Leckrone.
The glow in that photo and others is hot gas and dust pushed out from the stars, Leckrone said. In a way, it's like a lightbulb, with the star as the filament but the overall glow from the gas, he said.
The images, especially the butterfly, don't just show science, but can evoke a sense of spirituality, Leckrone said.
"What I see is the grandeur of creation, however it got there," Leckrone told The Associated Press.
The Associated Press offers a very credible news story