Don Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Nancy Neal
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-0039)

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
(Phone: 410/338-4514)

RELEASE: 00-16


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, as made
dramatically evident in stunning new celestial pictures of remote
galaxies and a colorful dying star released today.

The images were taken January 10 – 13, 2000, as part of the
activities to recommission the earth-orbiting telescope.

The pictures are a culmination of the successful Space
Shuttle servicing mission (STS-103) last December, which restored
NASA’s premier optical space observatory to full capability
beefed-up with new electronics and critically needed replacement
gyroscopes. Hubble has now resumed probing the Universe’s many
mysteries with a crystal-clear view.

“Thanks to the great work by the astronauts, Hubble is better
than new,” said Dr. Ed Weiler, NASA Associate Administrator for
Space Science. “I think there is no better proof than these
pictures that NASA’s capability to send humans into space to work
on Hubble has had a vital role in space science and the
renaissance in astronomy we’re now seeing.”

“After a two-month hiatus, it is a tremendous boost to all of
astronomy to see Hubble back in action. NASA has restored the
observatory to a condition that was better than it was even before
the fourth gyroscope failed,” said Steven Beckwith, director of
the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Hubble science
operations center in Baltimore, MD.

To verify the telescope’s refurbishment, astronomers resumed
operations by aiming it at two scientifically intriguing and
photogenic celestial targets. One object is an intricate
structure of shells and streamers of gas around a dying sun-like
star 5,000 light-years away.

Designated NGC 2392, it is dubbed the “Eskimo Nebula”
because, as seen through ground-based telescopes, it resembles a
face inside a furry parka. In Hubble’s sharp view, the “furry”
features resemble giant comets all pointing away from the central
star, like the spokes of a wheel. “The clumps that form the comet
heads all seem to be located at a similar distance from the star.
This fact will be important in developing a theory of why the
clumps formed in the first place,” said planetary nebula expert J.
Patrick Harrington of the University of Maryland, College Park,
MD. He adds, “Of all the planetary nebulae imaged by the Hubble
Space Telescope, this new image is unsurpassed in subtle beauty.”

A second target is a massive cluster of galaxies called Abell
2218, which acts like a giant zoom lens in space. The
gravitational field of the cluster magnifies the light of more
distant galaxies far behind it, providing a deep probe of the very
distant universe. The cluster was imaged in full color, providing
astronomers with a spectacular and unique new view of the early

“For the first time we can view the internal color structure
of some very distant galaxies. This gives us new insight into
details of what young galaxies are like,” says Professor Richard
Ellis at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and a
co-investigator on the original (black-and-white) Hubble image of
Abell 2218 taken in 1994. “The color of a distant source is
preserved by gravitational lensing. By matching images of the same
color, families of multiple images produced by the lensing process
can be identified.”

Andrew Fruchter, leader of the team who took the early
release observations is particularly fascinated by an unusual red
feature in the field. “This extraordinary object has colors which
indicate it is one of two things, either a rare, extremely cool
dwarf star in our own galaxy, or one of the most distant objects
ever viewed by Hubble lensed into visibility by the mass of the
cluster,” says Fruchter. Further observations will be needed to
confirm the identity of this unusual object.

Spacecraft operators report that all the new equipment
installed on the telescope in December is working perfectly,
including the new computer, solid state recorder, and fine
guidance sensor. In particular the new gyroscopes are allowing
Hubble to reliably point with exquisite precision at celestial

Two key science instruments, the Wide Field and Planetary
Camera 2 and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, are now
being used for routine science observations by astronomers
worldwide to probe everything from planets, to black holes, to far
flung galaxies.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for
NASA, under contract with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of
international cooperation between NASA and the European Space

NOTE TO EDITORS: Images are available on the Internet at: and via links in and

Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG and TIFF) are
available at: and