But the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope compels us to add, “so far.”
Beginning with its 1990 launch, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized our conception of the Universe.
Its first servicing mission, in 1993, served two incredible purposes.
One was to fix Hubble’s flawed primary mirror: an unimpeachable success.
The second purpose was a phenomenal instrument upgrade, including the WFPC2 camera.
Controversially, a high-risk proposal was selected with discretionary time: the Hubble Deep Field.
The plan was to repeatedly image the same “blank” area of sky.
If nothing novel appeared, it would be the biggest waste of premier telescope time in history.
Instead, it revealed a glimpse of the Universe unlike any other.
Across cosmic time and at distances never seen before, galaxies were everywhere.
Revealing the unknown Universe through long-exposure, deep imaging subsequently became routine.
The eXtreme Deep Field, with 23 cumulative days of data, provides today’s deepest views.
Overall, approximately ~2 trillion galaxies should be contained within our observable Universe.
But Hubble, even at today’s limits, can only reveal about 10% of them.
With James Webb scheduled to launch on December 18, 2021, that should change again.
Webb will observe its first “deep field” in 2022.
Viewing faint, distant galaxies beyond Hubble’s limits, new revolutions certainly lie ahead.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.