Thank You, Hubble

Writer’s note: I apologize that this post is a little delayed as I was finishing up my internship, finishing summer school courses, moving back across the country from Washington D.C. to Tucson, AZ, and then started school shortly after. It was all such a whirlwind experience but I wouldn’t want to change a thing! Here is my final comments on my last internship with NASA, working on the Hubble Space Telescope.

An open letter to the Hubble Space Telescope.

A year ago, I considered myself a “telescope girl.” Growing up during middle and high school in Tucson, Ariz., there are so many telescopes and observatories nearby. Arizonans pride themselves on the state’s dark skies and being a space enthusiasts dream state. I attend the University of Arizona, which runs several telescopes (including the Large Binocular Telescope and Multiple Mirror Telescope), has one of the best astronomy programs in the world, and the R.F. Caris Mirror Lab is underneath the football field. I worked (and will continue to work upon my return to AZ) for the Steward Observatory, my university’s on-site observatory.

Needless to say…

I. LOVE. TELESCOPES.

… and this was before I worked for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Before joining the project, I knew about Hubble because let’s be honest – who doesn’t know Hubble? (If you don’t, look it up!) I took an astronomy course in college and Hubble images are featured everywhere in the astronomy buildings. But despite Hubble’s fame, I was always more excited for ground-based telescopes than the orbiting observatories.

I’ve changed a lot since then and have become a “Hubble hugger,” as many people lovingly call themselves in the science community at Goddard and the Space Telescope Science Institute (which runs the science operations for Hubble).

When I first came to Hubble, I knew that it was this amazing telescope up in space and has produced so much science, and even after 28 years it still continues to produce physics-changing science. And I knew that much of our astrophysical knowledge is thanks to Hubble. Within 8 months, the Hubble Space Telescope means so much more to me.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a spacecraft, but it has issues and difficulties like the rest of us. The engineers dedicate their lives to keeping the spacecraft operational; they must be on call at a moments notice to come to the space center if there are any problems, even in the middle of the night. I have been lucky enough to work with these individuals and they are some of the most impressive people I have ever met. I have also experienced their pain of whenever the spacecraft has any difficulties and hope that the little telescope recuperates quickly. Hubble is, after all, a 28-year-old spacecraft with outdated technology.

I have been lucky enough to met the scientists that use Hubble’s data to make ground-breaking discoveries. They are so dedicated and passionate about their research that it is inspiring and truly humbling to see. They work and work, and continue to discover new facts about our expanding and ever-changing universe. These researchers are so much smarter than I will ever be. In fact, talking about astrophysics too much usually makes my brain hurt. Like, it physically hurts. But nevertheless, I try to understand.

Working on Hubble for 8 months and writing about its’ discoveries, I have inevitably learned about astrophysics. From blueshifted to redshifted objects; planetary nebulae and gravitational waves; the differences between a lenticular galaxy and a spiral galaxy; the expansion rate of the universe and dark matter. It is astounding (and kind of terrifying) thinking about the things that we don’t know about our universe.

The things I have learned from working with Hubble has taught me to be a better communicator, because I get excited about the facts and stories I absorb which, of course, I want to tell my family. It can get very technical and I hardly have basic knowledge of the concepts myself, but I get very excited to tell my family about my knew knowledge.

I produced a video for Hubble’s 28th anniversary, developed a timeline of Hubble’s entire history, and published articles on objects Hubble has observed. I’ve published posts on Hubble’s social media that have earned top ranks on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitter. I helped with tours and outreach events for the Hubble team, and visited the Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC) almost daily. It is incredible thinking about all of the tasks I have accomplished regarding this little space telescope.

My life literally revolved around Hubble for 8 months. Day in and day out, for 8 months, I thought about this space telescope. To say that I have developed a bond with this spacecraft is an understatement, and I can’t imagine the bond that the full-time NASA employees must feel regarding the spacecraft.

There will come a day when the Hubble Space Telescope will make it’s final observation. It’s final discovery. And take it’s last “breath.” And on that day, I am positive that I will shed a few tears for this beloved telescope. Hubble has been such a definitive part of my life that I will cherish forever and I am so grateful to have.

20180727_103623
Miniature model of Hubble outside of the control center.

So, thank you, Hubble Space Telescope: For your continued success, for the passion and hope that you inspire in others, and for somehow letting me be a part of your journey. May you live long and prosper.

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As I mentioned before, this was such a unique opportunity for me and I felt the need to share.

If you want to know the specific details of my internships with Hubble, check out my posts about my 3rd internship and 4th internship.

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Thank you for reading! What do you know about the Hubble Space Telescope? Let me know and like this post!

Xoxo’s

Emmalee

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