Wide Field Camera 3

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The Wide Field Camera 3 being prepared for its launch aboard STS-125

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is the Hubble Space Telescope's last and most technologically advanced instrument to take images in the visible spectrum. It was installed as a replacement for the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 during the first spacewalk of Space Shuttle mission STS-125 on May 14, 2009.[1]

Specifications[edit]

The Butterfly nebula imaged by WFC3 in 2009
WFC3 infrared view of the Horsehead nebula
WFC3 view of Mystic Mountain in Carina nebula
Jupiter in 2010, by WFC3

The instrument is designed to be a versatile camera capable of imaging astronomical targets over a very wide wavelength range and with a large field of view. It is a fourth-generation instrument for Hubble. The instrument has two independent light paths: an optical channel that uses a pair of charge-coupled devices (CCD) to record images from 200 nm to 1000 nm; and a near infrared detector array that covers the wavelength range from 800 to 1700 nm. Both channels have a variety of broad and narrow-band filters, as well as prisms and grisms, which enable wide-field, very-low-resolution spectroscopy that is useful for surveys.[2] The optical channel covers the visible spectrum (380 nm to 780 nm) with high efficiency, and is also able to see into the near ultraviolet (down to 200 nm).[1]

WFC3 features two UV/visible detecting CCDs, each 2048×4096 pixels, and a separate IR detector of 1024×1024, capable of receiving infrared radiation up to 1700 nm.[2]

Both detector focal planes were designed specifically for this camera. The optical channel covers a 164 by 164 arcsec (2.7 by 2.7 arcminute, about 8.5% of the diameter of the full moon as seen from Earth) field of view with 0.04 arcsec pixels. This field of view is comparable to the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 and is slightly smaller than the Advanced Camera for Surveys. The near infrared channel has a field of view of 135 by 127 arcsec (2.3 by 2.1 arcminutes) with 0.13 arcsec pixels, and has a much larger field of view than Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, which it is designed to largely replace.[3] The near infrared channel is a pathfinder for the future James Webb Space Telescope.[4] The IR channel is designed to lack sensitivity beyond 1700 nm (as compared with the 2500 nm limit for NICMOS) to avoid being swamped by thermal background coming from the relatively warm HST structure. This allows WFC3 to be cooled using a thermoelectric cooler instead of carrying a consumable cryogen to cool the instrument.[4]

The camera makes use of returned space hardware as the structure is built from the original Wide Field and Planetary Camera as well as the filter assembly.[5] These were switched for the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 by the servicing mission STS-61 in December 1993.[1]:343

WFC3 was originally conceived as an optical channel only; the near infrared channel was added later. WFC3 is intended to ensure that Hubble retains a powerful imaging capability through to the end of its lifetime.

History[edit]

WFC3 had been in the planning since the Spring of 1998. It was built by a team of highly experienced Hubble engineers and scientists drawn from many organizations, with leadership at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. WFC3 was constructed mostly at Goddard Space Flight Center and Ball Aerospace in Colorado.[4] Various parts were built by contractors across the United States and the United Kingdom.[6]

The instrument was scheduled by NASA to launch with STS-125 on 14 October 2008, but the mission was postponed due to additional repairs that were required. The mission launched on 11 May 2009 and the WFC3 was installed on 14 May.[7]

WFC3 Pillars of Creation[edit]

In celebration of the 25th anniversary since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers assembled a larger and higher-resolution photograph of the Pillars of Creation, which was unveiled in January 2015 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. The image was photographed by the Hubble Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009, and produced using near-infrared and visible light exposure.[8]

A higher-resolution HST image of the Pillars of Creation, taken in 2014 as a tribute to the original photograph

The 1995 version of this portion of Eagle nebula was taken with WFPC2, which had its characteristic "star-step" in a quarter of the image

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Wide Field Camera 3 Instrument Handbook for Cycle 23" (PDF). Space Telescope Science Institute. January 2014. Retrieved September 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ a b MacKenty, J.W.; Kimble, R.A. (January 2003). "Status of the HST Wide Field Camera 3" (pdf). American Astronomical Society poster session: 1. 
  3. ^ MacKenty 2003, p.4
  4. ^ a b c "Wide Field Camera 3 Fact Sheet". NASA. November 2007. 
  5. ^ MacKenty 2003, p.7
  6. ^ John W. MacKenty (2002). "Wide Field Camera 3: Design, Status, and Calibration Plans" (PDF). Space Telescope Science Institute. Retrieved September 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ "Space Telescope Operations Control Center — Flight Day 4". NASA. May 14, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Hubble Goes High-Definition to Revisit Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'". NASA. 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2015-01-06. 

External links[edit]