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Angular Resolution and What Hubble Can’t See

11 Apr 2019, 17:30 UTC
Angular Resolution and What Hubble Can’t See
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The crisp, stunning images from the Hubble Space Telescope are a wonder to behold. As one can see in the image comparison below, Hubble’s views are significantly higher resolution than similar images obtained by ground-based observatories.
Ground-based (left) vs space-based (right) images of star-forming regions in the Whirlpool Galaxy. On the left is the view from the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. On the right is the view from the Hubble Space Telescope.
WIYN Image Credit: K. Rhode, M. Young and WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSFHST Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Terrestrial telescopes must look through Earth’s atmosphere, which blurs the view and limits their resolution. Orbiting above Earth’s atmosphere, Hubble avoids that problem and can get a clearer view of the universe.
While Hubble provides the highest resolution of any visible-light telescope, that resolution has a limit. There are many things in the universe that Hubble can’t resolve, and the public is constantly curious about that boundary.
One question that we often hear is whether Hubble can see the lunar landers left behind by the Apollo missions (short answer: no). We also get questions asking why Hubble has such poor views of nearby ...

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