back to article Good eye, Hubble! Space 'scope spots furthest-ever object

The Hubble Space Telescope may be old enough to rent a car, but the aging orbital lab is still making new discoveries, the latest being the furthest-recorded object ever spotted. Scientists with the European Space Agency (ESA) said that they have detected the light from GN-z11, which had been an infant galaxy when its light …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "though it has been given significant hardware upgrades over the years."

    Yes, thanks to the orbital capabilities of the Space Shuttle - something the new Apollo v 1.1 it totally incapable to deliver. Webb will be totally unserviceable (also being at a Lagrangian point...) - first issue = billions of dollars thrown away. But maybe NASA contractors likes this kind of expensive project more, why repair/upgrade when you can get a contract for a new one?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Scientists are used to not being able to service equipment. Hubble was an exception in that regard.

      Because they are used to not being able to service their tools, they design resilience into said tools. That's why the Mars Rovers have been functioning so long beyond their programmed end-of-service date.

      That's also why their tools cost billions to put into service. It is not money down the drain.

      Now stop confusing NASA contractors with the military/industrial conglomerates. They're really not cut from the same cloth.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        They design *some* resilience, but if something goes wrong, "poooof!". The Mars Rovers are among the exceptions, not the norm - and it was also a lucky event the solar panels gets cleaned by the winds. Curiosity won't be so lucky. Also, look at how many IR orbital telescopes can't work fully any longer because nobody can refill them with a bottle of liquid helium...

        But Hubble wasn't only repaired - it was upgraded with newer and better instruments increasing its science capabilities - something you can't really do with some "resilience".

        NASA contractors are exactly the military/industrial conglomerates. Probably you missed it - but they are exactly the same companies. Who has the capabilities to build such hardware? Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, & C. Do you believe there are some little civil only shops building those things?

        But what is space exploration? Just a race, "hey, I put my foot there first! Now I won't be back in the next fifty years or more!" - or getting the capability of living and operate in space? The Shuttle was designed for the latter aim. The Apollo v 1.1 is for the former.

    2. mad physicist Fiona

      Re: "though it has been given significant hardware upgrades over the years."

      Webb will be totally unserviceable (also being at a Lagrangian point...) - first issue = billions of dollars thrown away. But maybe NASA contractors likes this kind of expensive project more, why repair/upgrade when you can get a contract for a new one?

      Oddly enough the bean counters have looked at this and that is why they opted for the alternative approach for the JWST. The images Hubble produces are certainly PR friendly which helps elevate it an almost mythical position in the popular imagination but for its cost you could have built and launched at least three generations of scope aboard unmanned rockets. Within the professional community Hubble is actually viewed as something of a white elephant - yes, the results it gets are good but they have been paid for handsomely.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: "though it has been given significant hardware upgrades over the years."

        You should read all the researches that are based on Hubble data - data which are not "images" only. Those are what the general public may understand easily, but there are far more data than those. Spectroscopic data, for example. In a far large window.

        Hubble never gained the "big discovery" - but it lead to a far better understanding and measurements of many, many space objects.

        Sure, the bean counters count beans, they can't see beyond that. Webb costed too far more than planned too - and you see a shift, the first space scientific instrument to be named after a bureaucrat, not a scientist/explorer... guess why?

        Also Webb is essentially an IR only telescope, with a few specific aims only - sometimes that attract also a lot of PR too like exoplanets - , and a far shorter expected life - hope it will work flawlessly for that, at least.

        So a lot of actual Hubble capabilities will be lost when it will become inoperative. And some of those capabilities, for example UV capabilities, can't simply be replaced by ground based instruments - no matter how large.

    3. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: "though it has been given significant hardware upgrades over the years."

      "Webb will be totally unserviceable (also being at a Lagrangian point...) "

      It's unserviceable *because* it's at the L2 point - nothing we're planning to build would be able to get there. Trying to come up some Shuttle alternative that can get to L2 and return to Earth is pointless, and a whole lot more expensive than building a replacement for JWST when the time comes.

      It also *has* to be at the L2 point to work. It's a sensitive instrument that wouldn't work in the same LEO as (say) Hubble.

  2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Pint

    well done, Hubble

    yet another scientific first.

    The timing of this is perfect. Just days ago, I saw a Discovery Channel documentary on the upcoming James Webb telescope which detailed how and why it would be able to see much farther than Hubble. Now, not even a week later, it turns out maybe not THAT much farther since Hubble can apparently see farther than ever imagined. Spiffy! Hopefully, they have similarly underestimated the capabilities and lifespan of the Webb scope.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: well done, Hubble

      Again, like the Shuttle was a far more capable device than the Apollo 1.1, what is important is not just to "get there first". It's important maybe in sports (and is something even dumb people can understand, that's why politicians like it also) not so much in science (albeit scientists like to be the firsts too...). What is really important is being able to keep on investigating and gather useful data. There's a big difference in reaching the top of Everest, and actually understand how Earth tectonic plates work.

      The Shuttle expanded greatly what humans could do in space (and return to ground) - not just sit into a small space waiting to reach the destination. Maybe the name "Shuttle" wasn't the proper one, because its true advantage was the orbital support capabilities - it was a mistake from the beginning to consider it just a "launch" system to replace older ones, for which it was too expensive. But its capabilities to support payloads in orbit, and return them to ground, is unmatched (that's why USAF wanted a smaller unmanned one...)

      The same way, just spotting the farthest object away is just a starting point - you then need to gather enough data to understand it. Hubble of course has limits. Webb is designed from ground up to gather more photons in the IR band, and with some better resolution due to its larger mirror. It should gather far more information from those objects. But it's good to known already where to look.

  3. arctic_haze

    Hubble is old enough to rent a car

    A pity it can't any more rent the Space Shuttle.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hubble is old enough to rent a car

      If the Hubble had been launched today, it would be junk since the optics were off. I wish the Shuttle (or a replacement) were available as when Hubble finally dies, it would be great if they could bring it back to earth... just because.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Re: Hubble is old enough to rent a car

      Perhaps the X-37 would be able to lend a hand (It was built to fiddle with tiny and fast-moving spy satellites, a telescope would be trivial), assuming that SpaceX wouldn't have something available by the time it needs service.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Hubble is old enough to rent a car

        I thought I read that the Hubble wouldn't fit in the X-37. Great idea if it could..

  4. Tromos
    Joke

    I'm not surprised GN-z11 can be spotted at that distance...

    ...with the number of candles it has on its birthday cake.

  5. Bloodbeastterror

    Furthest?

    Further = in addition.

    Farther = greater distance.

    Easy - no such word as "farthermore".

    Language matters. Especially if you're publishing to the world.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "James Webb telescope ... would be able to see much farther than Hubble. Now, not even a week later, it turns out maybe not THAT much farther since Hubble can apparently see farther than ever imagined."

    Of course if the James Webb telescope turned out to be able to see much further, say in excess of 14 billion, things could get really interesting...

    1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Of course if the James Webb telescope turned out to be able to see much further, say in excess of 14 billion, things could get really interesting...

      We've already been there, done that. The furthest reaches of the observable Universe are getting on for 50 billion lightyears away if memory serves. The Universe didn't spring into existence at its current size, after all, so we can actually see things much further away than a simplistic calculation suggests.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Actually, due to inflation, there are parts you'll never be able to see....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good science

    Never disappointing

  8. Ray Foulkes

    Next?

    "hubble detects even further galaxy created 400million years BEFORE the big bang"

  9. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    HUBBLE, not withstanding it's ignominious wrong lens fiasco must be ...

    NASA technology at it's finest and a bargain to boot.

    The world does owe the USA a round of applause for HUBBLE even if it's government is little better than scum.

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