archiv~1.txt: SETI A MOTE IN HUBBLE'S EYE (STScI-PRC99-08 Heritage)


Larry Klaes ( )
Fri, 05 Mar 1999 08:20:40 -0500

>Date: Thu, 04 Mar 1999 08:54:19 -0500
>From: Cheryl Gundy <>
>X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.07 [en] (WinNT; I)
>Subject: A MOTE IN HUBBLE'S EYE (STScI-PRC99-08 Heritage)
>EMBARGOED UNTIL: 12 noon (EST) March 4, 1999
>On April 6, 1994 NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was performing a
>detailed study of the Sun's nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri,
>using the Fine Guidance Sensors to search for small deviations in
>the position of Proxima Centauri that could reveal the presence of
>an unseen planetary companion. Rather than sit idle while this
>study went on, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) was
>activated using the observing strategy set out in a program initiated by
>Dr. Ed Groth (Princeton University) designed to make use of this
>otherwise wasted time. The image captured by this WFPC2 parallel
>observation is a typical Milky Way star field in the constellation
>Centaurus. Such images can be used to study the evolution of stars that
>make up our galaxy.
>Most of the stars in this image lie near the center of our galaxy
>some 25,000 light-years distant. But one object, the blue curved
>streak, is something much closer. An uncatalogued, mile-wide bit of
>rocky debris orbiting the Sun only light-minutes away strayed into
>WFPC2's field while the image was being exposed. This and about a
>hundred other interlopers have been found by Jet Propulsion Laboratory
>astronomers Dr. Robin Evans, Dr. Karl Stapelfeldt, and collaborators,
>who have systematically searched the HST archive for these nearby
>objects. Their analysis indicates this asteroid's orbit could cross
>Mars' path. Seen briefly by HST, these asteroids are too small and
>faint to track from the ground long enough for precise orbits to be
>determined. They are destined to return to their unseen wanderings for
>hundreds or thousands of years until once again, by chance, they may
>flicker across the view of some watchful eye peering off into the depths
>of space.
>Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)
>NOTE TO EDITORS: Image files and photo caption are available on the
>Internet at:
> or via links in
> and
>Higher resolution digital versions of (300 dpi JPEG and TIFF) of the
>release photo are available at:
>STScI press releases and other information are available automatically
>by sending an Internet electronic mail message to
> In the body of the message (not the subject
>line) users should type the word "subscribe" (don't use quotes). The
>system will respond with a confirmation of the subscription, and users
>will receive new press releases as they are issued. To unsubscribe,
>send mail to Leave the subject line blank, and
>type "unsubscribe" (don't use quotes) in the body of the message.