The fate of the telescope: how the life of the world's most watchful instrument will end

Three decades of work, the Hubble space telescope has done all it could. The honored veteran has survived a number of breakdowns, passed several upgrades, made dozens of masterpiece pictures — and reached the limits of his own capabilities. Thanks to serious efforts and a lucky combination of circumstances, he was able to distinguish even the galaxy NGC 11, which appeared a little more than 400 million years after the Big Bang. But Hubble is unable to look further for a number of reasons.

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Dimensions and weight: 13.2 x 4.2 m; 11.1 t

Manufacturers: Lockheed (satellite platform); Perkin Elmer (optics)

Telescope: Ritchie — Chretien reflector; main mirror with a diameter of 2.4 m; collecting surface of 4.5 m2

Range: near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet

Orbit: low earth orbit, altitude approx. 550 km, orbital period approx. 96 min.

Work: from 1990 to 2030-2040

Change of generations

First, due to the expansion of the Universe, the radiation of the most ancient stars has shifted to a longer-wave, red region of the spectrum, which the telescope is not designed for. Second, its small 2.6-meter mirror has difficulty collecting light from the most distant sources, and Hubble is forced to monitor them for a very long time. It took him a total of 23 observation days to get the famous extreme Deep Field image of the oldest galaxies. And if we want to see objects twice as dim as in this image, Hubble will need almost 100 days already.

The fate of the telescope: how the life of the world's most watchful instrument will end

It is not surprising that NASA has been preparing a new telescope for a long time, with a much larger mirror whose range goes further into the long-wave, infrared region of the spectrum. The launch of the James Webb device is scheduled for the spring of 2021, although it may well be postponed to a later date: the project is being implemented with difficulty and with numerous delays. However, Hubble is not in a hurry to rest. Theoretically, the resource of its tools will last for another 5-10 years, and they can bring a lot of new valuable information about the Universe — and just beautiful pictures.

James Webb

Dimensions and weight: 20.2 x 14.2 m (including heat shield); 6.5 t

Manufacturers: Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace

Telescope: reflector system is called into question; the primary mirror composite with a diameter of 6.5 m; the collecting surface m2 25,4

Range: from long-wave visible (orange) to medium IR radiation

Orbit: the halo orbit at the L2 Lagrange point of the Earth-Sun system;
height from 374 thousand to 1500 thousand km; circulation period-about six months

Work: from 2021

Pre-retirement age

You can't extend the service life indefinitely: even if all the onboard systems remain in order, Hubble is doomed. The device is in low earth orbit, not much higher than the ISS. Moving in the upper atmosphere at a speed of about 8 km / s, it constantly collides with rarefied gas particles, slows down, and decreases. Several service expeditions that carried out repairs and upgrades to Hubble, at the same time raised its orbit, extending its service life. But Hubble does not have its own engines that can hold it at the right height, and with each turn it gets a little closer to the end. To save it for history, the device will have to be picked up and carefully delivered to Earth with honor.

Astronauts arrived at the telescope on Board shuttles, and it was planned that the telescope would return the same way. However, in 2011, the space shuttles themselves were retired. Since then, they have been resting on Museum sites, and this opportunity was closed. Therefore, the participants of the last repair mission that worked with Hubble in 2009, mounted a soft Capture and Rendezvous System ON its rear end. SCRS provides a convenient and versatile interface for capturing and holding the device using various locking mechanisms, including advanced ones. When the time comes for final retirement, a manned or robotic expedition will be able to pick up the vehicle and carry it out of orbit.

More work?

A few years ago, Sierra Nevada announced the possibility of conducting such a "rescue" mission using a reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft, which should begin flights from the end of 2021. However, there are no specific plans for an expedition to the telescope yet, and there is no great hurry. During the 2009 service mission (SM4), the telescope received not only a capture system, but also completely new batteries and gyroscopes, an upgraded orientation system, thermal insulation, and so on. The mission management believes that there is an 80% probability that the onboard equipment will remain in normal operation after 2025.

The fate of the telescope: how the life of the world's most watchful instrument will end

Perhaps Hubble will meet its fortieth anniversary in orbit and only then will it finally complete its mission. Closer to this date, the method by which the telescope will be delivered to Earth will also be determined. It has already been designated a place for future well-deserved rest: it is planned that the device will be displayed at the Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "There is no specific date for decommissioning Hubble," the mission's official website concludes. — It will continue to work as long as the systems remain in order and can benefit the scientific community."

Star trek Hubble

1925 Edwin Hubble proves that the universe includes many galaxies besides the milky Way

1946 in Astronomy Quarterly Lyman Spitzer puts forward the concept of a space telescope and cites its key advantages

1957 October 4. Launch of the first artificial earth satellite

1969 the US National Academy of Sciences issues a report in support of the large space telescope project

1977 Congress approves the telescope project and allocates funding

1978 polishing of the main mirror Begins

1983 the Telescope is named after Edwin Hubble

1990 April 24. Space Shuttle Discovery launches from Cape Canaveral and puts the vehicle into orbit

June 27. A defect is reported in the main mirror of the telescope. The deviation from the specified shape was 2 microns, which created a strong spherical aberration and caused the image to become defocused

October 1. Published the first paper based on Hubble observations (Lauer et al., The Astrophysical Journal)

1993 Double core in the active center of the galaxy Markarian 315

December 2-13. First service expedition: Hubble is visited by seven astronauts on Board the Shuttle Endeavor. Five long spacewalks were required for repairs and upgrades. The telescope has a COSTAR system for aberration correction, as well as a new WFC3 camera, updated gyroscopes, and other systems

1994 the shoemaker-levy comet, Torn Apart by Jupiter's gravity, falls into the atmosphere of the gas planet

1995 "Pillars of creation" - gas and dust clusters in the eagle nebula

1996 Hubble Deep Field-image of an area in the constellation URSA Major with an area of about 5.3 square meters. angular minutes, made up of 342 separate images. Includes about 3,000 galaxies up to 12 billion years old

1997 February 11-21. The second service expedition on the Shuttle Discovery. The device is equipped with an infrared camera-a NICMOS spectrometer and a STIS spectrograph

1998 Ultraviolet flashes of auroras on Saturn

1999 November 13. Several gyroscopes fail and the device is switched to safe mode

December 19-27. Service expedition 3A on the Shuttle Discovery is replacing all gyroscopes and installing a new onboard computer

2000 Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392)

2001 Curved silhouette of the spiral galaxy ESO 510-G13

2002 March 1-12. Service expedition 3B, which arrived on the Columbia Shuttle, updates the cooling system of the NICMOS spectrometer, installs a new ACS camera and updates the solar panels

2003 "Light echo" of the exploding star V838 Unicorn highlights gas and dust clouds

Galaxy Sombrero (M104)

2004 Hubble Ultra-Deep Field-image of an area in the southern constellation of the sun with a total area of about 11 square meters. angular minute. Contains more than 10,000 objects — mostly galaxies, some of which were formed less than 500 million years after the Big Bang

Cat's Eye planetary nebula (NGC 6543)

2005 Galaxy Whirlpool (M51)

Composite image of the Crab nebula (NGC 1952) in the constellation of Taurus

August 31. To extend the life of the telescope, one of its three gyroscopes is stopped; Hubble continues working on the remaining ones

October 31. Two moons of Pluto have been discovered-Nycta and Hydra

December 22. Uranus ' rings and moons discovered

2006 Orion Nebula (NGC 1976)

Active star formation in colliding Antenna Galaxies (NGC 4038 and NGC 4039)

2007 NGC 602 Nebula in the southern Hydra constellation

Keel nebula (ESO 128-EN13)

2008 Exoplanet Dagon on the edge of the fragmented disk around the star Fomalhaut b

March 19. In the atmosphere of the distant exoplanet HD 189733b, the Hubble telescope first notices the presence of organic matter (methane)

September 27. Hubble is put in safe mode due to a data transfer failure to Earth

2009 Butterfly planetary nebula (NGC 6302) in the constellation Scorpio

May 11-24. Service expedition 4: the astronauts who arrived on the Shuttle Atlantis repair the STIS spectrograph and the ACS camera, replace part of the gyroscopes and batteries. A new cos UV spectrograph and WFC3 camera are installed on the device

2010 Pluto's Surface

SNR 0509-remains of a supernova that erupted 400 years ago

2011 Sparkling disk of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841

Interacting galaxies Arp 273 in the constellation Andromeda

December 6. A 10,000-page paper based on Hubble data is published (Cano et al., The Astrophysical Journal)

2012 S-shaped Spiral planetary nebula (NGC 5189)

July 11. The discovery of the satellite of Pluto Styx is reported

September 25. The image of Hubble eXtreme Deep Field is presented — an improved version of Ultra Deep Field, where you can distinguish about 5500 galaxies

2013 Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) in the infrared range

Variable star RS of the Stern

December 12. Hubble confirms the existence of powerful geysers that emit water vapor from under the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa

May 15, 2014. Telescope observations show that the Great red spot on Jupiter is shrinking

2015 Panoramic image of the Andromeda galaxy

2016 March 3. Hubble studies the record-breaking ancient galaxy GN-z11: its age is estimated at 13.4 billion years

April 26. A satellite has been discovered near the TRANS Neptunian dwarf planet Makemake

2017 February 22. The telescope observes planets in the habitable zone of the TRAPPIST-1 star

2018 the Oldest individual star discovered by Hubble is Icarus (MACS J1149), a blue supergiant that appeared about 9 billion years ago

2019 planetary nebula NGC 2022 in the constellation Orion-outer shells discarded by a dying star

Hubble Legacy Field-a composite panorama of the distant Universe, combining about 7500 images, where you can find more than 265 thousand galaxies

June 14. Hubble helps clarify the mass of Eris, the second dwarf planet after Pluto

2020 Spiral galaxy UGC 2885 ("Godzilla") is 2.5 times larger than our Milky Way and contains ten times as many stars

~2030 Possible last expedition to Hubble to deliver a veteran craft to Earth