Washington: NASA scientists Wednesday unveiled the first images taken by a revamped Hubble telescope, providing even crisper pictures of distant stars and galaxies.
The colourful images provide a taste of the Hubble`s new capability after a servicing mission in May that installed new instruments and repaired broken ones that had hampered the world`s most famous telescope.
Hubble has been orbiting Earth since 1990 sending back some of the most spectacular images of galaxies - helping scientists to place the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, learn that black holes are at the centre of most galaxies, monitor planetary formation and discover that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster pace.
But despite its storied past, the Hubble looked set for the junk heap until the space shuttle Atlantis` repair mission that saw the installation of new instruments and the repair of existing ones to extend its life until at least 2014, and possibly beyond.
NASA had originally decided against the maintenance mission because of the risk involved and the pressures to complete International Space Station (ISS) construction by 2010, when the shuttle is to be retired. But US politicians and world astronomers fought successfully to keep alive the instrument that has expanded knowledge of space.
Among the most important work done on the telescope was the addition of a new camera. The Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 will allow astronomers to see deeper into space and to capture images across all three regions of the light spectrum - ultraviolet, visible and near infrared.
Another new instrument, known as the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph will break up light into its components and allow astronomers to study the large-scale structure and origins of the universe, including how galaxies, stars and planets formed and how elements developed.