Hubble's Advanced Camera for Survey completes 20 years

Jay Kakade
Images released by Hubble Telescope Images released by Hubble Telescope after 20 years of Advance Camera for Survey (ACS). (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI)

On 7 March 2002, NASA astronauts installed Advanced Camera for Survey (ACS) during a servicing mission of Hubble Telescope called STS-109 or 3B. In the span of 20 years, ACS has revealed new mysteries of universe, looking into the deep interstellar space with Hubble Space Telescope.

Due to ability to view wide fields, high image resolution capturing and high sensitivity of ACS, it has delivered magnificent images of space.

Mike Massimino was one the astronauts who spacewalk and installed ACS. He said, "We knew ACS would add so much discovery potential to the telescope, but I don't think anybody really understood everything it could do. It was going to unlock the secrets of the universe."

Meeting with the expectations, ACS became Hubble's one of the mostly used instruments. ACS has captured the distribution of dark matter, mapped distant objects, massive galaxies and studied evolution of clusters of galaxies.

According to the Tom Brown, Head of the Hubble Space Telescope Mission, Hubble Telescope was already famous for capturing images of distant galaxies before the installation of ACS. But the ACS was so powerful than earlier cameras, It became a instrument to observe more distant object.

Tadpole Galaxy also called as UGC 10214 is a disrupted galaxy 420 million light years away from us in Draco constellation. Astronomers observed Tadpole Galaxy after ACS installation to test camera's abilities.

ACS captured Tadpole Galaxy, which looked as a pinwheel firework along with tail of stars. With the rich tapestry of 6,000 galaxies.

"The Advanced Camera for Surveys has opened our eyes to a deep and active universe for two decades," said Jennifer Wiseman, NASA's Hubble Senior Project Scientist. "We are anticipating still more discoveries with this camera, in conjunction with Hubble's other science instruments, for many years to come."

In the span of 20 years, ACS highlighted more than 125,000 images. These images trapped numerous discoveries. Some of the famous ones are given below.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Hubble's Deepest View Hubble's Deepest View Ever that unveils the distant galaxies. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI)

Ultra Deep Field is most important observation made by ACS. It revealed a series portraits of deep universe ever seen by humankind.

In 2004, Hubble Ultra Deep Field made a collaboration with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer (NICMOS) to capture 13 billion years old light that from 400 to 800 million years after the Big Bang.

This study new insights about the first galaxies formation during Dark Age - The time after the big bang, when a star reheated to cold, Dark Universe.

Later Hubble Ultra Deep Field teamed up with other instruments and organisations and gave us a new view of universe (before 435 million years of big bang). The study completely changed our perception of universe.

The Frontier Fields

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field was followed by the frontier fields. The Frontier Fields extended Hubble's view to way farther than before. These study used giant lenses in space.

Huge gravity of massive galaxies that wrapped the light up became visible in this research. As Frontier Fields used power of Hubble's ACS along with other telescopes, which made 10 to 100 times fainter galaxies visible to us.

Pluto Photography

ACS imaged most detailed view of Pluto ever. It revealed icy, mottled, dark molasses-coloured world undergoing seasonal surface and brightness changes.

Images captured by ACS helped other missions like New Horizon Flyby by showing right hemisphere to take close look.

The Mysterious Fomalhaut b

In 2008, ACS made first successful view in a object which was initially thought to be a planet, named Fomalhaut b. Fomalhaut b revolved around a bright star Fomalhaut.

But later it moved away from our sight or became more fainter. Today astronomers believe it was a cloud of dust particles formed from two icy bodies. Though the reality is unknown, upcoming studies may solve the mystery.

The Light Echo of V838 Monocerotis

ACS was the one who captured a strange phenomenon of Light Echo. Light from a star V838 Monocerotis was reflected by dust and travelled towards Earth.
While studying V838 Monocerotis increased its light and became 600,000 times brighter than Sun. Reason for it is unknown.

After detailed study of Light Echo it was stated that the light was reflected by a dust and it reached earth after years from outburst. This is the powerful example that state capability of ACS.

Collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies

collision of Milky way and Andromeda galaxy Astronauts observed motions of stars of Andromeda, revealing collision of Milky way and Andromeda galaxy. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI)

By observing the motions of groups of stars in Andromeda Galaxy, Astronomers were able to conclude collision of Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, 4 billion years from now.

Andromeda is about 2.5 million light years from us, and is getting pulled towards us due to mutual gravitational force by both. Astronomers says they will merge into one in upcoming future.

Mature and "Toddler" Galaxies Far Back in Time

Scientists look far beyond in time using ACS, Universe had mature galaxies when it was formed just few billions year ago.

Galaxies are member of cluster that formed about 5 billion years old. This gave researchers idea of galaxies have been started to form just after Big Bang happened.

Galaxies existed in still developing young cluster in their early stage through proto-cluster was found.

ACS was built for observation and deep research on theories that formulated formation of universe. It used distant astronomical objects to study galactic phenomenon.

This gave theory that galaxies were formed and present in history of cosmos. Presence of large cosmic clusters agrees with cosmological model but clusters formed from merging of sub-cluster in universe was dominated by cold dark matter.
However, the precise nature of cold dark matter is not fully known to researchers.

Clues about Dark Energy and Accelerating Universe

Using ACS, scientist studies supernova that exploded long years ago. All the activity was studied to put forth this thesis.

It provided clues that confirmed universe is accelerating continuously from its birth and expanding at speed greater than light. Also concept of Dark Energy was put on focus.

ACS used faint glow from exploded supernova. ACS made dissect faint glow light to measure distance of supernova, cause of explosion and fade of supernova.

It was noticed to have such object very special and called them Ia supernova. Ia supernova are reliable energy that can calibrate vast intergalactic distances without dispersion of energy.
This is due to their predicable bright glow of light.


What is Advanced Camera for Survey (ACS)?

Advanced Camera for Survey is high resolution camera instrument installed on Hubble Space Telescope for efficient observation of deep space. Till now it has captured more than 125,000 images, revealing mysteries of universe.

Which are the famous researchers conducted by ACS?

1. Hubble Ultra Deep Field
2. The Frontier Fields
3. Pluto Photography
4. The Mysterious Fomalhaut b
5. The Light Echo of V838 Monocerotis


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