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Hubble Telescope Shoots Some Accidental Light Painting Thanks to a Tracking Glitch


Hubble’s modern art

The Hubble Space Telescope recently decided to make a foray into light painting when it created the image you see above (full res below). A total accident caused by a glitch, the final image turned out more like modern art than the typical awe-inspiring photography we’re used to seeing from Hubble.

According to the ESA, the interesting creation is the result of Hubble locking on to a bad ‘guide star’:

Hubble uses a Fine Guidance System (FGS) in order to maintain stability whilst performing observations. A set of gyroscopes measures the attitude of the telescope, which is then corrected by a set of reaction wheels. In order to compensate for gyroscopic drift, the FGS locks onto a fixed point in space, which is referred to as a guide star.

It is suspected that in this case, Hubble had locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in this remarkable picture of brightly coloured stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. It seems that even when Hubble makes a mistake, it can still kick-start our imagination.

Here’s the full photo (click here to view the high-res version):

Hubble’s modern art

It looks like glitch art creators and light painters alike have some new competition from a very expensive piece of hardware. You can learn more about the image by heading over to the ESA website here.

(via Gizmodo)

Image credits: Photograph courtesy of NASA and the ESA