- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

The first four photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope's newly installed camera were released yesterday by NASA, including images of more than 3,000 visible galaxies twice as many as captured on film by its predecessor.
"Today marks the beginning of a new era of exploration with Hubble," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for space science at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. "After 12 years in space, Hubble not only was given a major overhaul, its new camera has already shown us that we haven't seen anything yet."
Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys photographed a colliding galaxy, nicknamed "Tadpole," located 420 million light years away, and produced a picture of a collision between two spiral galaxies, which was called "Mice."
Simulations by astronomers show that the colliding galaxies in "Mice" will eventually merge, forming a single giant galaxy. From this observation scientists are able to predict a similar fate that may await the Milky Way and neighboring Andromeda galaxies.
NASA says the ACS is expected to surpass the sensitivity of the largest ground-based telescope to eventually see the very faintest objects ever recorded. The camera delivers a clarity comparable to a wide-screen movie, containing 16 million megapixels per image, while digital photos from typical consumer cameras are between two and four megapixels.
"These are among the best images of the distant universe humans have ever seen," said astronomer Holland Ford of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead scientist in the camera's seven-year development. "The ACS is opening a wide new window onto the universe."
The new camera was installed on Hubble by astronauts during the STS-109 servicing mission in March, the fourth Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission since its launch in 1990. During five spacewalks the crew successfully upgraded the orbiting telescope with the new camera, a new power unit, new solar arrays and an experimental cooling unit for an infrared camera.
During the conference Preston Burch, Hubble project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, gave an update on the status of the new equipment and assured that all parts continue working perfectly two months after the mission.
In addition to installing the ACS, the service mission installed a cooling system that has successfully pumped out most of the heat from the interior of the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS), which is maintaining the temperature of negative 333 degrees needed for NICMOS to function.
Dave Leckrone, a Hubble project scientist at Goddard, said NASA hopes to take images in the next two weeks with the NICMOS and expects to release the first images taken by the camera since 1998 in early June.
"This servicing mission has turned out to be an extraordinary success," said Mr. Burch. "It was the most difficult and complicated Hubble servicing mission attempted to date."
The final service mission for the Hubble telescope is planned for 2004, which according to NASA should keep it running for six years. Then it will be brought down and placed on display in the National Air and Space Museum.

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