The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has yet again yielded important new discoveries in 2016. Scientists studying the wealth of information that HST collects have observed what could be a new planet. A star a little smaller than our own Sun approximately192 light-years away in the constellation Hydra, (also known as the Female Water Snake) is believed to show signals that a planet is orbiting at around it the same distance away as our Earth from the Sun.Although probably the size of Jupiter the planet itself cannot be seen, but its gravitational effect has warped the disk of dust and gas surrounding this young star (only 8 million years old), creating a shadow. It is thought that now this phenomenon has been observed it should be easier to spot in other newly forming solar systems.
HST doesn’t only observe images in the visible spectrum but can interpret infra-red images from specially designed cameras on other satellites that produce images in the far infra-red spectrum (Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS)). Using this two gas-rich, spiral galaxies have been observed colliding with each other producing a spectacular light show in the far reaches of the universe. Located more than a billion light years away this galaxy crash known asIRAS 14348-1447 is ultraluminous in the IR region and is producing unbelievably vivid images.
Surprisingly, NASA allows anyone to apply for time using Hubble to observe phenomena in the universe, although this is keenly contested. Submissions from amateur astronomers are considered alongside major projects and a timetable of users is produced annually. However, a lot of the wealth of data that Hubble has recorded has yet to be interpreted and made into images that can be used. It is thought that Hubble will have to be safely dealt with as it eventually will slow down sufficiently to be dragged down and re-enter the earth’s atmosphere, which could cause significant damage if its components collided with the surface.