Hubble Status Report - November 2005
Routine Cycle 14 observations have started as planned and the process for selection of Cycle 15 proposals has been kicked off.
Plans for a shuttle born SM4 servicing mission continue; however the final decision on whether to actually fly the mission will only be made after a successful second flight of the shuttle, now not expected to be earlier than spring of 2006. In the meantime the NASA Administrator has decided that it is not necessary to include a deorbit module in this mission. Current estimates indicate that HST will not re-enter the atmosphere before 2020, and that provides ample time to find alternative means for a controlled deorbit. Removing the deorbit module will significantly simplify the mission as well as decrease the risk associated with a new development and the associated risk to the astronauts.
HST captured the dramatic effects of the collision early July 4 between an 820-pound projectile released by the Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1. Visible-light images - taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys' High Resolution Camera - show the evolution of material that was blasted off the comet as it expands and diffuses into interplanetary space.
HST successfully observed three targets on the Moon: the Apollo 15 landing site, the Apollo 17 landing site, and the Aristarchus crater. These observations were taken to support activities related to NASA's exploration initiative. All indications from the science team are that the data meet their needs. The observations required substantial manual scheduling, real-time pointing control support (PCS group), and quick data turn-around.
An international team, lead by an ESA astronomer, have measured the mass of stars in several very distant galaxies. One of these galaxies, among the most distant ever seen at a redshift of 6.7, an era when the universe was only 800 million years old or about 5 percent of its current age, appears to be unusually massive and mature for its place in the young universe. This comes as a surprise because the earliest galaxies in the universe are commonly thought to have been much smaller agglomerations of stars that gradually merged together to build large galaxies like our Milky Way. This galaxy, named HUDF-JD2, appears to have grown amazingly quickly, within the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. It accumulated about eight times more mass in stars than is found in our own Milky Way today, and then, just as suddenly, it stopped forming new stars.