Telescopes

The Hubble Space Telescope (Photo NASA)

On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery was launched in its STS-31 mission. In its cargo bay it carried a really special payload, the Hubble Space Telescope. The day after it was deployed in its orbit, just over 550 km (about 342 miles) altitude. On June 25, Hubble sent its first images, which revealed a flaw in its primary mirror that reduced its usefulness. The first of a series of service missions turned what had threatened to turn into a terrible failure into a symbol for science and technology that goes far beyond astronomy.

A map of the cosmic microwave background with inserts showing the Cold Spot as seen by PS1 and Planck Surveyor (Image ESA/Planck collaboration. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz)

When astronomers started studying a map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB or CMBR), the residue of the earliest stages of the universe, they found what was called the Cold Spot. That’s a huge area colder than expected which could be the largest single cosmic structure never identified. According to an international team of scientists consists of a cosmic supervoid which about 1.8 billion light years across.

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in its outer reaches (Image B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For many years, scientists have known that complex molecules can form in space, including some important in the birth of life forms. This month, two studies have been published that prove the presence of various molecules of this type in an infant solar system and even in protostellar clouds in which Sun-like stars are formed together with their planets.

Supernova in the galaxy M82 captured by the Swift satellite. Mid-ultraviolet light is shown in blue, near-UV light in green and visible light in red (Image NASA/Swift/P. Brown, TAMU)

A research conducted by a team led by astronomer Peter A. Milne of the University of Arizona published in two articles in the “Astrophysical Journal” shows that Type Ia supernovae can be divided into two groups with different characteristics. For years, astronomers had thought that their brightness depended almost exclusively on their distance. This can have consequences on our knowledge of the universe expansion, also calculated based on this type of supernovae.

Images of eight galaxies containing green filaments that are the last effect of ancient quasars (Image NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa))

The Hubble Space Telescope photographed a series of ghosts of quasars that existed in the past. They are seen as ethereal green objects in various forms and are the last effects of ancient quasars. These phenomena are very interesting from a scientific standpoint because they can provide information about the past of those galaxies, which were once very active.