The Hubble Space Telescope and the Messier objects
The famous Hubble Space Telescope is certainly one of the most innovative
tools of the astronomers in this decade; the present author is just now
going to predict (and is convinced it deserves) that it might win the
title "Photographer of the Decade" for the 1990, as Voyager 2 was
nominated for the 1980. Its most spectacular results, together with an
open and intelligent public relations policy of the Space Telescope
Science Institute, has provided astronomers with a great flood of data
and high-quality images, and an outstanding popularity, especially as all
the material gets public domain two years after it was obtained.
The Hubble results have revolutionized the state of knowledge in virtually
any branch of astronomy -- not that every good result comes from the HST,
but as these data are available publicly, they are used if ever possible;
from planets, comets, and asteroids to stars, clusters, nebulae, and
galaxies, every sort of objects in the sky was investigated, often
obtaining most revolutionary results.
Among the most outstanding achievements are observations of objects from
Messier's catalog, as those are outstanding representatives of all types
of Deep-Sky objects. Because not every author has made his results
available to the public domain, we cannot present a comprehensive review
here at the moment. But we have tried to link into our catalog some of
the most interesting achievements.
There's but one fact on the Hubble Telescope's optics which must be kept
in mind: The Hubble telescope has a very long focal length of 190 feet (58 m),
and thus a one degree field measures one full meter in the space telescope's
focal plain, and one arc minute about 1.7 cm. As its detectors are very much
smaller, their fields of view are actually small, so that only photos of small
portions of extended objects like most of Messier's catalog can be obtained.
Moreover, the Hubble Space Telescope is not only an astronomical instrument
(though the telescope makes up its biggest part) but also a sophisticated
spacecraft. As a spacecraft, it has proven to be very reliable, and was
so well operated that the technological operations did virtually never concern
the scientific program.
Indeed, Hubble is one of the more important in a considerably long list of
or astronomy satellites.
Here's a list of links to the Hubble observations of Messier objects we
could collect with our pages:
We know of more good Hubble results concerning Messier objects.
They are listed below, and we would like to get images and more
information for inclusion here:
Jeff Hester and
Paul Scowen of the
Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, have obtained
gorgeous images of the Crab Nebula
with the Hubble Space Telescope. These images have been reproduced
previously in Sky and Telescope of January 1995, and have provided
some new and significant insight into the internal processes of this
supernova remnant. Some views of fine detail
have been extracted, which are e.g. suitable for computer screen background.
On May 30, 1996, new studies of the same
authors have provided some new insight into the dynamics and changes of the
Crab nebula and its pulsar.
White dwarfs (September 1995)
Hubble Views the Hourglass Nebula in M8
Dense Core of the globular cluster,
similar to active galactic nuclei (November 1995)
- M16: Gas Pillars and Evaporating
Gaseous Globules in the Eagle Nebula
screen sized crops
- M31: Discovery of the Andromeda Galaxy's
double nucleus (1993).
Investigation of M31's brightest
globular cluster, G1 (1996).
- M33: Discovery of the hot young giant stars
which excite the huge
emission nebula NGC 595 in M33 to shine.
The giant diffuse nebula NGC 604 in M33
has been photographed with the HST, resolving about 200 hot young massive
early pre-repair photos (1993),
Proplyd discovery photos (June 1994),
Mosaic and closeups (November 1995),
Trapezium cluster and Proplyds (January 1997)
OMC 1 molecular cloud (NIC, May 1997)
Hubble photos of M51, especially of its core
("X" or "y" structure in the core of M51) have been taken before and after its
repair in December 1993 by the crew of the Space Shuttle mission STS-61.
The HST also recorded
Supernova 1994I in M51.
HST image of M57;
Oct 98 HST image.
IR image of M64 central region taken by
Nicmos-3 (PR 99-10 from March 18, 1999)
The active nucleus of this
Seyfert II galaxy was revealed by the HST early after its refurbishment
in December 1993.
Gorgeous image of M80 from the Hubble
Heritage Project, showing various types of stars including Blue Stragglers.
A massive central object in M84 was
detected in the heart of this Virgo Cluster lenticular when in early 1997
the newly installed Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) was used
to investigate this galaxy.
The "Smoking Gun" (June 1994),
M87's active nucleus, surrounded by an accretion disk.
In addition, R. Mark Elowitz
has provided a well-processed HST image of
Finally, we have an older (pre-repair)
image of M87 and its jet.
Nial R. Tanvir used the HST to detect and investigate Cepheid variables
in this galaxy. HST image of M96
This grand-design spiral was among the first objects
photographed after the HST refurbishment
by the crew of the Shutle mission STS-61 in December 1993.
Moreover, this galaxy is the home of the first
Cepheid variables discovered
in the Virgo cluster of galaxies, giving a distance
of 50-60 million light years, and a Hubble constant of 80+/-17.
However, with the refinement of the distance scale by ESA's astrometric
Hipparcos satellite, this value must be refined by about 10 percent, and
current estimates for H0 are closer to 67+/-7.
Central Massive Dark Object (January 1997)
Also, there were older images which are not yet on SEDS, e.g. in the slide
sets of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, including more
photos of M42, M77, M87, and others.
If you have info on how these materials can be obtained to include them
here, please email me.
- M81: The distance of M81 was determined
from early HST observations of Cepheid variables. Are these reports, and
possibly images/data, available online somewhere ?
- M95 was a target within the
key project of searching for Cepheid variables in neighboring galaxies.
We are still looking for Hubble images of this galaxy though.
- M101: The distance of M101 has been
determined as 24 million light years, again with Cepheids.
A HST image of M101 was in a recent issue of Astronomy magazine.
Links to materials of and from the Hubble Space Telescope:
Last Modification: 17 Feb 1998, 21:50 MET