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ESA/Hubble/JWST Science Newsletter
18 December 2020
Looking back and looking forward

We are delighted that 2020 is coming to an end.

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the way we live, work and do science. For many, it has brought added stress, anxiety, financial difficulties and diminished scientific productivity — and for all, videoconferencing fatigue. We long for normality, for the personal interactions, the informal conversations where great ideas are born, and the travel to see family, friends and collaborators. We can only offer empathetic words to those of you who have been personally affected by the virus. 2020 has been no fun!

Still, in spite of the pandemic, a number of good things have happened in 2020. Thanks to all of you, we were able to organise a great party, albeit virtual, for the Hubble 30 Launch Anniversary. We had planned so many activities in person, like the synchronised unveiling of the beautiful anniversary image all across Europe. These had to be replanned, in almost real time, in March, after it became clear that meeting in person was no longer an option. And that is where you all stepped in, with your support and your enthusiasm. We shifted everything online, and we still had a great party. See for yourselves here, all the beautiful cakes prepared to wish Hubble Happy Birthday, the artistic creations that Hubble inspired, your video messages, your tweets and your facebook posts. More than 200 000 people were reached by the events that ESA/Hubble organised. It was grand.

One event we had to postpone was the “Science with the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope VI” conference that was supposed to take place in Stockholm in March. This conference could not be moved fully online, so we postponed it. We are now thinking of rescheduling to summer 2022, which will allow us to still talk about Hubble breakthrough science, but also focus on the first observations from Webb. Yes, because we learned this summer that Webb now has a launch window: October 2021!

And this is again where you all surprised us. By the deadline of 24 November – 3 December, we received 1173 JWST Cycle 1 proposals, more than were received for Hubble in Cycle 28. Read here about the details, including the impressive show from ESA Member States, that submitted 31.9% of the proposals. We are looking forward to learning of your successes with the Time Allocation Committee, next spring.

With the COVID-19 vaccines now starting to be distributed, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and the return to our offices in the not too distant future. 2021 will bring back some normality, and also a renewed appreciation for our resilience, and our ability to work together even under very difficult circumstances. In spite of this annus horribilis, we have been able to collectively stay focused, get excellent science out of Hubble and prepare to take advantage of the extraordinary powers of Webb. We are ready for 2021!

If you are interested to be part of our team, here is also one opening for astronomers funded by the ESA Directorate for Science, through a contract with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). This scientific position is a three-year term, renewable contract with salaries and benefits commensurate with those of AURA employees at the STScI. You can learn more about this opportunity here. Come and join us!!

Finally, we have to say one goodbye. For many years, ESO has carried out Hubble education and public outreach operations (including this website) on behalf of ESA. Following many years of this special relationship with ESO, the ESA/Hubble team is excited to be embarking on a new outreach operations framework that will be coordinated via the ESA Office at the Space Telescope Science Institute. This will become effective as of 1 January 2021. The transition will be completely transparent to all of you. We wish to thank the amazing team at ESO for the meaningful and special partnership with ESA/Hubble. We are grateful for the many team members behind the scenes at ESO who have made the magic happen throughout all these years.

And to all of you and your families, the warmest wishes of Happy Holidays, and a peaceful, healthy and successful New Year!


Antonella Nota
ESA/HST & ESA/JWST Project Scientist, STScI
Baltimore, USA

Science Announcements

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 ...

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First Steps Towards Designing the JWST Cycle 1 Science Programme

18 December 2020: Antonella Nota (ESA/HST & ESA/JWST Project Scientist) The JWST Cycle 1 proposal deadline closed on 24 November 24, with an extension to 3 December for exceptional COVID-related reasons. After the deadline, it is always exciting to learn how many proposals have been submitted, as that is the first direct measure of the community interest in the mission. JWST ...

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Connecting Scientists with the Public on Social Media

18 December 2020: Oana Sandu Social media represents one of the main sources of information and entertainment for users around the world. The number of social media users worldwide in October 2020 amounted to 4.14 billion. 99% of them access social media on a mobile device and users spend an average of 2 hours and 29 minutes per day on social networks ...

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Launch of the New ESA/Hubble Website

18 December 2020: Bethany Downer (ESA/Hubble) The ESA/Hubble outreach team is excited to launch the new website for updates and products from the Hubble Space Telescope, as will soon redirect to the new ESA/Hubble website.  This website will still be home to the ESA Hubble content that the public and the Hubble community have become familiar with, including ...

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