Astronomers celebrating Hubble’s past focus on its future | Science News

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Astronomers celebrating Hubble’s past focus on its future

New techniques help space telescope study planetary atmospheres, cosmic acceleration

6:00am, April 24, 2015
Westerlund 2

EYE IN THE SKY  A stellar nursery 20,000 light-years from Earth known as Westerlund 2 showcases the Hubble Space Telescope’s sharp vision in an image taken in honor of the observatory’s 25th anniversary.

BALTIMORE — A technique for sniffing around in the atmospheres of supersized planets near super bright stars could also help the Hubble Space Telescope unravel the history of the universe.

Hubble scientists developed a way to slowly scan the sky while collecting starlight so the telescope could explore the neighborhoods of stars that would otherwise be too bright for its sensitive detectors. It turns out that this trick also enables astronomers to measure distances to nearby stars with unprecedented precision, helping to zero in on the expansion rate of the universe and why it’s picking up speed.

This surprising connection is just one revelation to come out of a four-day symposium at Hubble’s headquarters, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Astronomers gathered there April 20–23 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the orbiting observatory, which rocketed into space

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