Camera That Saved Hubble

NASA instrument, which provided stunning images from space, is featured in Hubble 3D IMAX and in special weekend programming on October 16 and 17

DENVER - October 12, 2010 - Beginning this Friday, October 15, the Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, WFPC2, will be on display for a limited time at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.  The supercamera, which is the size of a baby grand piano, is credited with saving the Hubble Space Telescope mission and providing unprecedented and crystal clear pictures of our universe.

"The Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 ranks right up there with Galileo's telescope and Newton's apple, from a space science standpoint," said Steven Lee, PhD, the Museum's curator of planetary science.  "From the public standpoint, this camera is Hubble.  Hosting the WFPC2 is an amazing opportunity our museum, especially given the timing of our IMAX 3D grand opening featuring the Hubble film and our Space and Sea Spectacular scheduled for this weekend."

Museum visitors will have a unique opportunity to see this remarkable scientific instrument, complete with several "craters" in its outer skin that were caused by micrometeorite impacts during its years in orbit.  Special related programming will be offered on Saturday, October 16, and Sunday, October 17, during the Museum's Space and Sea Spectacular, which is included with general admission.  Additionally, visitors to the Museum's new IMAX 3D theater will experience actual 3D footage taken in 2009 when shuttle astronauts removed WFPC2 from Hubble. 

The Story of the WFPC2
The WFPC2 camera replaced the first camera on board NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 with the promise that it would bring in a new era of astronomical discovery.  Soon after the launch, NASA learned that the first camera had a defective main mirror and transmitted only blurred images back to Earth.  After three years of work by NASA scientists, the WFPC2 was installed and soon the camera began offering stunning, razor-sharp images of our universe.

For 16 years, the WFPC2 offered front-row seats to the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, provided dramatic evidence for super-massive black holes at the core of many galaxies, detected thousands of galaxies in a "blank" region of the sky, observed weather on many of our neighboring planets, and returned views of star-birth in the Eagle Nebula's "Pillars of Creation."  Many of these images were not only incredibly valuable to scientists, but also incredibly beautiful to the general public.  Hubble became "the people's telescope," and the WFPC2 was the workhorse instrument of the mission; it was the camera that saved Hubble.

The WFPC2 was replaced with a new camera and returned to Earth in 2009, during the final Shuttle mission to service the Hubble-and this effort became the storyline of Hubble, now playing in IMAX 3D at the Museum.  Since May 2010, the camera has been on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where it was built.  Through a special loan arrangement with NASA, it will make a brief stop in Denver while en route to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Facility in Maryland. 

Space & Sea Spectacular - IMAX 3D Opening Celebration
Free with Museum Admission on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17
The Museum is celebrating the grand opening of its new IMAX 3D theater with a weekend full of free special programs and activities centered around space and sea. Visitors will learn about 3D photography, view the Sun through solar telescopes, explore the world of robotics, and take a look at some of the amazing sea shells from the Museum's collections. Special guests will conduct chemistry experiments, give tours of the universe, answer questions about the fin whale skeleton floating overhead, and more.  Below are highlights.

  • 12:30 p.m. on Sunday - Astronaut Emeritus Bruce McCandless II shares stories of his space exploration and connection to the Hubble.  He worked on designing Hubble to be serviceable in orbit, and was an astronaut on the April 1990 space shuttle mission that carried the telescope into orbit.  He will participate in Q&A with the audience and be surrounded by dramatic space images within the planetarium.
  • 3 p.m. on Sunday - McCandless shows the WFPC2 and the explains features engineered into Hubble and its instruments that allow for the on-orbit "house calls" and have made Hubble one of the premier scientific endeavors of all time
  • 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday - Steve Lee, the Museum's space science curator, will explain his use of the Hubble Space Telescope and WFPC2 to observe weather on Mars.

IMAX 3D Digital Upgrades
The Museum recently completed digital upgrades to the latest IMAX 3D technology, which now delivers the world's most immersive movie experience.  Enhancements in the theater include IMAX's powerful digital projection system, IMAX's latest digital sound system, and a new IMAX screen.

Hubble 3D
Hubble 3D offers a gripping story full of hope, crushing disappointment, dazzling ingenuity, bravery, and triumph. Hubble recounts the amazing journey of the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most important scientific instrument since Galileo's original telescope and the greatest success in space since the moon landing. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and presented with the latest 3D technology, Hubble will change the way you see the universe.  Showing daily at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m., with an additional showing at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. View the trailer and see ticket prices.

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