Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Hubble instruments sent to museum

Hubble Space Telescope (Nasa)
Costar, Hubble's "spectacles", was removed in May and returned to Earth

Two instruments that served more than 15 years aboard the Hubble telescope have gone on display in the US.

Washington DC's National Air and Space Museum is the new home for the WFPC-2 and Costar, which once served as the telescope's eyes and its spectacles.

The two instruments were replaced during a servicing mission in May.

They will depart in December for a brief tour of California before returning permanently to the museum in March 2010.

The Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement, or Costar, was a suite of optics providing the fix for a manufacturing fault that initially stymied Hubble's mission.

Pillars of Creation Hubble image (Nasa)
The "Pillars of Creation" image became as famous as the telescope

A tiny flaw in the curvature of the telescope's main mirror meant its first images were blurred.

In 1993, Costar was installed to act as "spectacles" to correct the images for a range of Hubble's instruments and cameras. In addition, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC-2) was installed, which already had the optical fix built into it.

The rejuvenated telescope then began to produce some of the most stunning images astronomers - and the public - have ever seen.

The WFPC-2 was responsible for the ubiquitous image of the Eagle Nebula, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation", among 135,000 others during its 15 years in space.

The two instruments were removed in the final Hubble servicing mission in May and returned to Earth.

"This was the camera that saved Hubble," said Dr Ed Weiler, associate administrator for Nasa's science mission directorate.

"I have looked forward for a long time to stand in front of this very instrument while on display to the public."

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum holds thousands of artefacts from the history of aviation and spaceflight.

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