NASA’s Hubble Telescope Found a Surprising Photobomber in Latest Galactic Pic

While the James Webb Space Telescope has received a lot of love and attention recently (and for good reason), it’s easy to forget that Hubble is alive and well—almost. In fact, the aging telescope—now in its 32nd year—is still capturing breathtaking new images of deep space, and its newest telescope has surprised itself.

NASA and its partners at the European Space Agency have released this stunning image of what they call “cosmic treasure.” It shows a large number of spiral and elliptical galaxies, along with stars in front twinkling closer to Earth. A bright, starry galaxy called UGC 7983 floats in the middle and is thought to resemble some of the earliest galaxies that formed in the universe, according to an ESA blog post.

However, there’s also a bit of a surprise on closer inspection: an asteroid trail through the image at the top left appears as four streaks of light—which is completely unintentional. The lucky accident was caused by the image being a combination of four different pictures taken by Hubble’s Advanced Surveying Camera.

An asteroid trail through the image at the top left appears as four streaks of light

ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Tully

While dramatic, this image is actually part of Hubble’s projects to capture every known galaxy near the Milky Way. So far, the orbiting telescope has captured 75% of the galaxies and is spending the little time remaining to capture the final quarter.

Hubble has returned to the terrain since its last service mission in 2009. Fortunately, NASA and SpaceX have a study plan to consider the viability of propelling the telescope back to its original orbit. The agency believes this could help extend its operational life by another 15 to 20 years.

All in all, it’s a great reminder of how aging telescopes can still deliver fascinating scientific discoveries through the universe—and some fascinating photos along the way.

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