The Hubble Space Telescope has recently photographed UGC 9391, a spiral galaxy 130 million light-years from Earth in Draco's constellation.
Space telescope Hubble captured this image of UGC 9391, a spiral galaxy 130 million light-years from Earth near Draco’s constellation. Its stellar spiral arms stand in stark contrast to distant galaxies, which are only visible as faint swirls or smudges due to their great distances from Earth. Additionally, the image includes some nearby stars that are significantly brighter. A ring of diffraction spikes surrounds these nearby stars due to light interacting with Hubble’s secondary mirror support mechanism.
Using Hubble observations, astronomers constructed the “Cosmic Distance Ladder” – a map of the distances of the largest astronomical objects. The distance between an object and the sun can only be directly measured for objects that are relatively close – less than 3,000 light-years away. Beyond this distance, astronomers rely on calibrations against nearby objects for measuring correlations. By comparing two measuring techniques – supernova explosions and Cepheid variables – UGC 9391 helped astronomers improve their distance estimates. A key science goal of Hubble is to improve the precision of distance measurements so that astronomers can gauge how fast the universe is expanding.
The Hubble space telescope has been in operation since 1990 and continues to do its job wonderfully. Although the recently-launched James Webb Space Telescope dethroned Hubble as the greatest space telescope in operation, Hubble is making sure it continues delivering not only breathtaking images of distant stars and galaxies but crucial data for a better understanding of our cosmic neighborhood.
Recently, SpaceX and NASA have explored the possibility of reboosting the space telescope into a higher orbit using one of SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft. By doing so, it would increase Hubble’s operational time by several years. The space telescope orbits the “Blue Marble” about 335 miles above Earth, but this orbit is slowly degrading over time. Hubble will be de-orbited or disposed of safely after its lifetime has ended.