sci20006 — Announcement
2020 ESA/Hubble Highlights
18 December 2020
Bethany Downer (ESA/Hubble)
2020 was another busy year for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Scientists throughout Europe published in 2020 a large number of exciting new results. Of the various ESA/Hubble science releases published this year, some memorable scientific news that garnered particular public interest included Hubble’s observation of the aftermath of a titanic collision between two icy asteroid-sized bodies orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut, the lack of evidence found for the first generation Population III stars, the first observation of a total lunar eclipse by a space telescope, and Hubble’s new insights that suggest there is an ingredient missing from current dark matter theories. After 30 years of operation, it’s staggering to consider the magnitude and impact of the telescope’s continued output of breakthrough results. This also spurs us to imagine what scientific discoveries await us next year and beyond!
All of the many beautiful photo releases published this year have been popular with the public. Hubble’s crisp new image of Jupiter and Europa captured international attention and awe. In fact, this was the most popular of ESA/Hubble release in the past five years. An accompanying image of the gas giant in ultraviolet/visible/near-infrared light also provided researchers with a new view and weather report of the giant planet. In another special photo release, Hubble tracked the fading light of a supernova in the spiral galaxy NGC 2525, located 70 million light-years away. A unique time-lapse of Hubble images created by the ESA/Hubble team showed the once bright supernova initially outshining the brightest stars in the galaxy, before fading into obscurity over the course of one year. Other notable photo releases published in 2020 include the curious flapping motion captured in the shadow of the young star HBC 672, resembling the flight of a bat, the gigantic galaxy UGC 2885, and Hubble’s shots of two nearby young planetary nebulae, NGC 6302, dubbed the Butterfly Nebula, and NGC 7027. This year, Hubble also used its unparalleled sensitivity to capture closeups of the comet NEOWISE and the breakup of comet ATLAS.
Most memorably, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. After much anticipation and growing excitement, on Friday 24 April Hubble’s 30th anniversary image was revealed to the public. A large print of this image was provided to various host institutions across Europe to be used in their public facilities. The ESA/Hubble anniversary press release also featured various supporting media, including two new special commemorative Hubblecasts that were created by the ESA/Hubble team for Hubble’s 30th anniversary. This important milestone was also celebrated with a variety of initiatives to engage with the public. Social media followers wished Hubble a Happy 30th Birthday by preparing a birthday cake, and two live events were also held on ESA/Hubble’s Facebook page and ESA Web TV. Particular excitement was generated by the invitation to the general public to submit Hubble-inspired creations. A Flickr album and a special Hubblecast were created to feature some of the amazing creations received. To browse other initiatives and accomplishments from ESA/Hubble’s 30th anniversary celebration, visit this page.
Looking ahead to ESA/Hubble’s activities in 2021, we want to continue to emphasise the role of ESA and the European astronomical community in the telescope’s continued success and the use of Hubble data by European institutions and scientists. As Public Information Officer, my primary goal is to promote the Hubble Space Telescope’s science for the European Space Agency in close collaboration with the ESA Project Scientist for Hubble. As a European Hubble user, you can access ESA/Hubble’s resources to promote your scientific results to the media and the general public. ESA/Hubble and SpaceTelescope.org can help by producing and distributing press releases, image processing, web articles, artists’ impressions, and high-definition videos — like the 2020 release highlights mentioned above. If you think any part of your research could be of interest to the public at large, or your observations might produce an image suitable for public release, please get in touch so we can explore possible avenues for promoting your work!
ESA/Hubble Public Information Officer
About the Announcement