Why is the Hubble telescope still in use despite James Webb?

Astronomers are also learning new tricks in using Hubble. Using one of the telescope’s instruments, the Advanced Camera for Mapping, mission controllers have just figured out how to combine information about the spectrum and polarization of light from celestial bodies, gaining new knowledge about their nature.

Much of the focus in the coming years will be on coordinating Hubble and James Webb observations to achieve a more complete picture of cosmic phenomena. For example, astronomers are using Hubble to look at nearby galaxies that resemble examples identified by James Webb in the far reaches of the universe, with the goal of building a timeline of galaxy evolution. They could also use both telescopes to jointly study the atmospheres of exoplanets that Hubble has a long history of exploring.

Jennifer Wiseman“Having the power of both of these telescopes greatly increases our ability to understand all areas of astrophysics,” says astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and chief scientist of the Hubble project. Now is the time to make the most of these tools.”

Hubble is still working

It is not clear how much time is left for Hubble. Jim Geltic“If I ask you when your car is going to fail, you won’t have a clue,” says Hubble’s deputy program director at the Goddard Center, and that’s pretty much the case with Hubble.

Launched in 1990 by the space shuttle Discovery, the Hubble telescope has needed repairs and upgrades over the years. Astronauts visited it five times between 1993 and 2009. The first repair operation was to fix a mirror defect that was blurring the telescope’s vision, and over the next four missions, astronauts upgraded Hubble’s scientific instruments to keep it at the forefront of astronomy research. Those missions kept Hubble looking like a new telescope over and over again, Weisman says. However, NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, and there are currently no plans to re-service the telescope.

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