Modern Art by the Hubble Space Telescope

Image: NASA/ESA/A. Sarajedini (University of Florida)/Judy Schmidt

The Hubble Space Telescope got lost the other day, but that's okay, because we get something quite beautiful out of it. The photo above looks like a piece of modern art, but it's actually star trails when Hubble accidentally locked onto a bad guide star.

ESA's Hubble website explains:

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.

Quite gorgeous! Maybe Hubble should get lost more often ...

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