The Hubble Space Telescope and the Messier objects

hst.jpg The famous Hubble Space Telescope is certainly one of the most innovative tools of the astronomers in the 1990s decade; the present author is just now going to predict (and is convinced it deserves) that it might win the title "Photographer of the Decade" for the 1990, as Voyager 2 was nominated for the 1980. Its most spectacular results, together with an open and intelligent public relations policy of the Space Telescope Science Institute, has provided astronomers with a great flood of data and high-quality images, and an outstanding popularity, especially as all the materials get public domain two years after they were obtained.

The Hubble results have revolutionized the state of knowledge in virtually any branch of astronomy -- not that every good result comes from the HST, but as these data are available publicly, they are used if ever possible; from planets, comets, and asteroids to stars, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, every sort of objects in the sky were investigated, often obtaining most revolutionary results.

Among the most outstanding achievements are observations of objects from Messier's catalog, as those are outstanding representatives of all types of Deep-Sky objects. Because not every author has made his results available to the public domain, we cannot present a comprehensive review here at the moment. But we have tried to link into our catalog some of the most interesting achievements.

There's but one fact on the Hubble Telescope's optics which must be kept in mind: The Hubble telescope has a very long focal length of 190 feet (58 m), and thus a one degree field measures one full meter in the space telescope's focal plane, and one arc minute about 1.7 cm. As its detectors are very much smaller, their fields of view are actually small, so that only photos of small portions of extended objects like most of Messier's catalog can be obtained.

Moreover, the Hubble Space Telescope is not only an astronomical instrument (though the telescope makes up its biggest part) but also a sophisticated spacecraft. As a spacecraft, it has proven to be very reliable, and was so well operated that the technological operations did virtually never concern the scientific program (at least up to November 1999 when it shut down itself because the fourth of 6 gyroscopes failed - only to be recovered in the third servicing mission, STS-103, in December 1999).

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was originally projected under the name "Large Space Telescope" (LST) and then simply "Space Telescope" (ST), and developed since the 1970s. Indeed, Hubble is one of the more important in a considerably long list of orbiting telescopes, or astronomy satellites. It is the second of four in a NASA series of large orbiting observatories, observing in the visible light, together with the Compton Gamma Ray Telescope (CGRO) observing in Gamma-ray light, the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) observing in Infrared.

Here's a list of links to the Hubble observations of Messier objects we could collect with our pages:

We know of more good Hubble results concerning Messier objects. They are listed below, and we would like to get images and more information for inclusion here: Also, there were older images which are not yet on SEDS, e.g. in the slide sets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, including more photos of M42, M77, M87, and others which still await being included here.

Some Hubble images of non-Messier objects have also found their way into our service:

Links to materials of, from, and about the Hubble Space Telescope:

Hartmut Frommert
Christine Kronberg

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Last Modification: March 28, 2012