Hubble Status Report - May 2006
To extend the expected scientific lifetime of HST, one of the gyros was switched off and HST is now successfully operating in a two-gyro configuration. An initial study has confirmed the feasibility of a one-gyro mode and detailed design activities for implementing this contingency mode have started. The operational readiness is expected in early 2007, well ahead of the projected need for its implementation.
Plans for a servicing mission to Hubble using the space shuttle continue; however the final decision on whether to actually fly the mission will only be made after a successful second flight of the shuttle after the Columbia accident, now expected for early summer 2006. This Servicing Mission 4, planned for early 2008 now includes two new instruments, the Wide-Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), as well as many life-extending items such as gyroscopes and batteries. A repair of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) may also be attempted by the astronauts. A de-orbit module and the Aft-Shroud Cooling System are no longer part of the plans for this servicing mission, due to general consensus that they are not needed at all (cooling system), or at least not until 2020 (de-orbit module).
Council has approved the extension of the NASA/ESA MOU until 2010, following the recommendations of AWG, SAAC and approval by SPC.
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to provide excellent data that not only enable advances in science, but also excite and engage the public.
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, a team lead by a European astronomer assembled an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. In this star formation there are more than 3000 stars of various sizes, which appear in the HST image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys. The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars. Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. Located near the Trapezium stars are other stars still young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These disks are called protoplanetary disks or "proplyds" and are too small to see clearly in this image. The disks are the building blocks of solar systems.
The annual number of published papers based on Hubble data continued to increase significantly during the past year. The number of publications reached a value of 651 for 2005, with the current total approaching 5400 refereed papers.