Hubble – 15 years of discovery
- A closer look at the World’s most successful scientific project 15 years after launch
0 Introduction 4
0.1 Specifications 4
0.2 Distribution 4
0.3 Visual elements 4
0.4 Hubble’s scientific successes 5
1 The Hubble Story (10:56) 9
2 Hubble Up Close (05:05) 16
3 Planetary Tales (08:40) 19
4 The Lives of Stars (12:24) 27
5 Cosmic Collisions (07:56) 37
6 Monsters in Space (07:52) 42
7 Gravitational Illusions (06:07) 50
8 Birth and Death of the Universe (05:54) 56
9 Looking to the end of time (11:26) 60
10 National chapters – IN PROGRESS 66
11 Bonus material 67
11.1 Slideshows 67
11.2 How are the Hubble images made? 67
11.3 Undress Hubble 67
11.4 Plasma Screen Saver 67
11.5 Simulating the Universe 67
11.6 Behind the scenes 69
11.7 Showreel 69
11.8 Gallery 69
11.9 Soundtrack CD 70
11.10 Commentary soundtrack 70
11.11 Taho 70
12 End titles 71
13 Revision history 77
24 April next year the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope will have been in orbit around the Earth for 15 years! In many ways Hubble is the most successful scientific project in the World, and this event is not likely to go unnoticed.
The European Space Agency, ESA, has decided to celebrate this anniversary with the production of a Hubble 15th Anniversary movie called “Hubble, 15 years of discovery”. The movie covers all aspects of the Hubble Space Telescope project – a journey through the history, the trouble and the scientific successes of Hubble.
This portrait of one of the biggest scientific projects of all time contains large amounts of previously unpublished footage in uncompromised quality. With the beautiful backdrop of Hubble’s visual image treasures running as a red line through the movie the light and dreaming style tells the most interesting stories about our fascinating Universe and about the change vision that Hubble has brought us. The movie is accompanied by custom-made music that is second to none in quality and aesthetic expression.
The movie is distributed on standard DVDs and contains bonus material such as stills, movies, ‘space music videos’ and interactive content. There is also room for content tailored to fit local national requirements (localised content).
Standard region 0, DVD-9
8.5 GB storage space
All subtitles on same DVD master
Possibility to include localised material
Specially tailored localised DVD masters possible for selected large distributors, like the UK (e.g. Faulkes)
Possibility to include additional localised PC/Mac enhanced products
The will contain interactive elements navigable via a remote control's arrows and the 'Enter' button
An unsupervised play-back mode is the default and makes it easy for planetaria and museums to use the movie in their exhibition areas
The strength of using a DVD to share the excitement of the Universe is that anyone with a 50 Euro DVD player can watch it. The penetration of the DVD medium is continuing its record-breaking growth, and will by the time of the launch April-May 2005 allow most households in Europe and the US to watch the movie.
Direct mailing to planetaria, educators, press, VIP list members etc.
Broad distribution via some of the larger commercial players. The idea being that the partners take over partial ownership of the DVD (with logo etc), against making copies and distributing the DVDs in their area. The partners will naturally have part of the DVD (measured in minutes own film material or as Gigabytes of storage) for possible 'national material'.
National Magazines or Newspapers
‘Visual ballets’: Choreography of images, texts and music
Scientist Bob Fosbury in a Virtual Studio (VS) setting. Bob explains the more technical and scientific things. He often explains things a bit as seen from the astronomers’ perspective.
Outdoor shooting with Bob explaining in a landscape setting.
Interviews with prominent scientists.
Stock footage: nature, sunset, clouds, animals, landscapes
0.4Hubble’s scientific successes1
Hubble is an upgradeable, space-based telescope orbiting at almost 600 km, placing it well above most of our image-distorting atmosphere. It is designed to take high-resolution images and accurate spectra by concentrating starlight to form sharper images than are possible from the ground, where the atmospheric ‘twinkling' of the stars limits the clarity. Therefore, despite its relatively modest size, 2.4 metres, Hubble is more than able to compete with ground-based telescopes that have light-collecting (i.e. mirror) areas 10 or even 20 times larger.
Hubble's second huge advantage over ground-based telescopes is its ability to observe near-infrared and ultraviolet light that is otherwise filtered away by the atmosphere before it can reach the ground.
Hubble’s extremely high resolution and sensitivity have made unique observations of objects within the Solar System possible, obtaining amazing images and rich streams of data about the nature of these bodies. Hubble has seen unprecedented detail in Jupiter’s aurorae, which are similar to those seen above the Earth's Polar Regions, but almost 1000 times more energetic and much more complex. Jupiter’s Aurorae can only be seen in ultraviolet light, so they can never be studied with ground-based telescopes.
Astonishing images of Saturn’s aurorae were also taken and reveal that the spectacular curtains of ultraviolet light rise more than a thousand miles above the cloud tops of the planet’s north and south poles.
In comparison with spaceprobes, which have to travel vast distances and require years of planning to visit the planets, Hubble is able to react quickly to dramatic events occurring in the Solar System. This allowed it to witness the stunning plunge of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter’s atmosphere. The consequences of the impact could be seen for days afterwards and, by studying the Hubble data, astronomers were able to gain fundamental information about the composition and density of the giant planet’s atmosphere.
Although Hubble’s high resolution images are surpassed by close-up pictures taken by planetary spaceprobes, Hubble has the advantage of being able to carry out long-term monitoring. This is crucial for the study of planetary atmospheres and geology.
Weather systems can reveal much about the underlying atmospheric processes, and Hubble regularly observes the global seasonal dust storms on Mars, producing astonishing data.
0.4.2Other planetary systems
Hubble had been in orbit for five years when the first planet around a Sun-like star was discovered. Although it was not designed to study these objects, Hubble versatility has allowed it to make significant contributions to the field. For example, Hubble’s high resolution has been indispensable in the investigation of the gas and dust disks, dubbed proplyds, around the newly born stars in the Orion Nebula. The proplyds may very well be young planetary systems in the early stages of creation. The details revealed by Hubble are superior to anything seen to date with ground-based instruments and, thanks to Hubble, we have visual proof today that dusty disks around young stars are common.
With ground-based telescopes the gas giant planet HD 209458b, 150 light-years from Earth, was discovered in 1999 through its slight gravitational tug on its ‘mother-star’. In 2001 Hubble made highly accurate measurements of the dip in the star’s light when the planet passed in front. The first detection of an atmosphere around an extrasolar planet was also seen in this planet. The presence of sodium as well as evaporating hydrogen, oxygen and carbon was detected in light filtered through the planet's atmosphere when it passed in front of the star.
Hubble has also measured the mass of a planet – only the second time such a calculation has been performed with any accuracy – by detecting the way in which the planet causes its star to wobble. Hubble also found the oldest planet so far discovered. The planet orbits a tiny stellar husk, which was once a blazing star like the Sun, and is located 5,600 light years away. Astonishingly, the planet was once like Jupiter and is around 13 billion years old, almost three times older than our own planetary system.
0.4.3The life cycle of stars
Hubble has gone beyond what can be achieved with other observatories by linking together studies of the births, lives and deaths of individual stars with theories of stellar evolution. In particular Hubble’s ability to probe individual stars in other galaxies enables scientists to investigate the influence of different environments on the lives of stars. These are crucial data that allow us to extend our understanding of the Milky Way galaxy to other galaxies.
Hubble uses its exceptionally sharp focus to reveal changes on cosmic scales over periods of only a few years. From the ground it is not possible to see such evolution taking place on a cosmic scale. In the Universe this kind of action normally takes place on timescales of many thousands or even millions of years, so being able to follow real time changes in astronomical objects is truly progressive.
Time-lapse movies made by Hubble show that young stars and their surroundings can change dramatically in just weeks or months. XZ Tauri and HH 30 reside about 450 light-years from Earth and the Hubble movies show jets of gas ploughing into space at hundreds of thousands of kilometres per hour. Both star systems are probably less than a million years old, making them relative newborns.
Hubble has monitored supernova SN 1987A since 1991, four years after it exploded. The result is a series of stunning observations that show the evolution of the last stages of a star’s life.
The ongoing monitoring of the Crab Nebula has enabled Hubble to capture the display of matter and antimatter propelled to speeds close to lightspeed by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star. Thanks to Hubble, scientists can follow directly the explosive motion of the gas remnant left behind by the supernova that exploded in 1054.
Hubble was also able to track the evolution of the old star V838 Monocerotis located about 20,000 light-years from Earth. The star put out enough energy in a brief flash to illuminate the surrounding dust. Hubble made a film-like sequence of unprecedented clarity that shows the gas being illuminated by the sudden flash of light from the bizarre star.
Also in planetary nebulae – gas shrouds ejected by dying Sun-like stars – Hubble has directly observed the expansion of the nebula itself. The Cat’s Eye Nebula, for instance, has been observed with Hubble over a period of eight years and is a marvellous example of the resolving power of the telescope.
Ground-based telescopes show planetary nebulae as round (planet-shaped) objects with rather simple geometries. Numerous Hubble observations have revealed that their structures are much more varied and complex than was expected. How a normal Sun-like star evolves from a relatively featureless gas sphere to a nebula with intricate glowing patterns is still one of the unsolved mysteries in astronomy. Each new image of the glowing patterns of gas intrigues astronomers anew: sprinkling jets, pinwheels, ghostly filaments, supersonic shocks, concentric rings, intricate tendrils of gas and fiery lobes…
Hubble was the first telescope to directly observe white dwarfs in globular star clusters. White dwarfs are stellar remnants and provide a ‘fossil’ record of their progenitor stars that shone so brightly they long ago exhausted their nuclear fuel. These measurements make it possible to determine the ages of these ancient clusters - an important cosmological tool for astronomers.
0.4.4Black holes and quasars
Although the existence of black holes has been hypothesized for more than 200 years, a central tenet of the theory is that a black hole will be impossible to observe directly. X-ray satellites had hinted that black holes existed, by detecting the emission of X-rays from superheated gas about to be swallowed. Then came Hubble. Its high resolution made it possible to see the gravitational effects on matter surrounding the largest black holes in the Universe. Hubble has also proved that a black hole is most likely present at the centre of most galaxies. This has important implications for the theories of galaxy formation and evolution, as it means that the black hole might be the ‘seed’ that begins a galaxy’s formation.
For many years, quasars were considered to be isolated star-like objects of a mysterious nature. Then astronomers became suspicious that each might be the superbright centre of a so-called active galaxy. Hubble has now observed several quasars and found that each resides in a galaxy’s centre. Today most scientists believe that all quasars are powered by a central black hole.
0.4.5Gamma Ray Bursts
Gamma Ray Bursts emit intense gamma-ray radiation for short periods and are observed a few times per day by special gamma-ray detectors on observatories in space. Today, partly due to Hubble, we know that these bursts originate in other galaxies - often at extreme distances. Their origin had eluded scientists for a long time, but, after Hubble’s observations of the atypical supernova SN1998bw and the Gamma Ray Burst GRB 980425, scientists began to see a physical connection between these two phenomena.
Light does not always travel in straight lines. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicts that massive objects will deform the structure of space itself. When light passes one of these objects, such as a cluster of galaxies, its path is curved slightly. The effect is called gravitational lensing.
Hubble’s sensitivity and high resolution allow it to observe numerous faint and distant gravitational lenses that cannot be detected with ground-based telescopes due to the blurring of their view by the Earth's atmosphere. The gravitational lensing results in multiple images of the original galaxy, many with a characteristically distorted, banana-like shape.
Since the amount of lensing depends on the total mass of the cluster, gravitational lensing can be used to ‘weigh’ clusters. This has considerably improved our understanding of the distribution of the ‘hidden’ dark matter in galaxy clusters and hence in the Universe as a whole.
Deep fields are lengthy observations of a particular region of the sky. They are intended to reveal faint objects by collecting their light for an appropriately long time. The ‘deeper’ the observation (i.e. longer exposure time), the fainter are the objects that become visible. Astronomical objects can either look faint because their natural brightness is feeble, or because of their great distance.
The first deep fields – Hubble Deep Field North and South - gave astronomers a peephole to the ancient Universe for the first time, and have caused a revolution in modern astronomy.
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field from 2004 represents the deepest portrait of the visible universe yet achieved by mankind. It reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the “dark ages”, the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dim universe. Some may be the farthest ever seen, existing when the universe was just 400 million years old.
0.4.8The expansion of the Universe
Several groups of astronomers have used Hubble to observe a special type of variable star, the Cepheids. With very stable and predictable brightness variations, a Cepheid’s period of variation depends on physical properties of the star such as mass and true brightness. This means that astronomers, just by looking at the variability of their light, can effectively determine their distance. For this reason, cosmologists call Cepheids ‘standard candles’.
One of Hubble’s ‘core’ purposes was to determine the rate of expansion of the Universe, known to astronomers as the “Hubble Constant”. After eight years of Cepheid observations this work was concluded by finding that the expansion increases with 70 km/second for every 3.26 million light-years you look further out into space.
The Cepheids have also been used as ‘stepping-stones’ to make distance measurements for supernovae further out in the Universe. This, in turn, has given a measure of the scale of the Universe.
Hubble’s sharp vision means that it can see supernovae, exploding stars billions of light years away that are difficult to study with other telescopes. A supernova image from the ground usually blends with the image of its host galaxy. Hubble can distinguish the light from the two sources and thus measure the supernova directly.
For many years cosmologists have discussed whether the expansion of the Universe would reverse in the distant future or continue ever more slowly. From the new supernova results it seems clear that the expansion is nowhere near slowing down. In fact, due to some mysterious property of space itself, called dark energy, the expansion is accelerating and will continue forever. This surprising conclusion came from combined measurements of remote supernovae made with most of the world’s top-class telescopes, including Hubble.
Furthermore, recent supernova results indicate that the cosmos did not always accelerate, but began accelerating when it was less than half its current age. This hints at a fantastic end for the Universe because it implies that the anti-gravity force is becoming more dominant with time. If this continues, it will eventually overwhelm all gravity and catapult space into a super fast acceleration that will shred everything into its constituent atoms. Cosmologists have called this nightmare scenario, the Big Rip.