What's an Astronomer's favourite Birthday Gift?
As you can see, we woke up this morning, to find that the Space Telescope Science Institute — the organisation running the world’s most famous telescope, Hubble — have sent out their approval and denial letters for the next cycle of observations with the Telescope. Our proposal for observing the Voorwerp (led by Principal Investigator Bill Keel) was approved for 7 orbits. Getting time on HST is hard at the best of times, and this time round was particularly difficult. Hubble is currently waiting for a visit from astronauts to carry out a desperately needed set of repairs and upgrades, and every astronomer in the world wanted to be first in the queue once it’s back on top form. To give you an idea, more than 20,000 orbits were requested when there were only 3,500 of them to go round – and 7 of them now belong to Galaxy Zoo.
So when will you see a gorgeous Hubble image of the Voorwerp? Not for a while yet. First, the Space Shuttle has to successfully complete its final service mission to repair the Hubble and install new instruments. This is currently scheduled for October 8, 2008. After all the repairs are done and the spacecraft has been checked out thoroughly, we then have to wait for the Voorwerp to actually be visible on the sky for Hubble. All this will take at least several months more. And of course once the data is taken, we then have to reduce it first to produce a picture. Still, it will be a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about what the Voorwerp is.
By coincidence, today’s the birthday of the Voorwerp’s discover. Happy birthday, Hanny – and enjoy your present from the Space Telescope Science Institute.