Hubble @ 25: HUBBLE MANIA!
This year we will celebrate 25 years of awesome science, made possible by the Hubble Space Telescope. After some initial teething problems post-launch in 1990 (the mirror was ground to the wrong shape, meaning the telescope couldn't focus properly), the telescope hit its stride in 1993, after the first servicing mission provided Hubble with some fancy space 'spectacles', giving it precision focus. Ever since, this incredible 2.4m space telescope has been churning out image after image of mind-blowing space awesomeness, and has propelled astronomy leaps and bounds into the future. And, even as we speak, it's still taking data that will lead to cutting edge science (including a cool survey of Andromeda dwarf galaxies that I'm a part of).
25 years of being a space-based bad-ass is something that must be commemorated, and the agencies behind Hubble (NASA and ESA) have a bunch of celebratory events planned. One to take note of and get involved with is Hubble Mania! A March-Madness style tournament, pitting 32 of Hubble's most beautiful and famous images against each other. Who wins? You decide! Go to their website right now and start your bracket! And don't just fall for some of the more obviously dazzling images, but take some tine to consider some of the less instantly awe-inspiring ones. Like the Hubble Ultra Deep field, one of the DEEPEST image of space ever taken (the actual deepest is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, taken in the same region). This fabulous little picture was taken in a seemingly empty patch of sky, contains >10,000 objects, and can see 13 billion years into the past, catching glimpses of galaxies that were forming just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang!
As for my top pick... I'm torn! There are so many beautiful images there... but my first ever, real life, proper astronomical observations were of the Crab Pulsar, back in my undergraduate days, so I'm sentimentally drawn to the image of the Crab Nebula (the cover image for this story). Also, it looks AWESOME! :)