New Database Is Hubble Space Telescope’s Legacy

Over 25 years, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has collected more than 100 million bits of data and images of astronomical objects and space phenomena. These have been maintained in the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescope (MAST), but the collection was not easily accessed or searched. Researchers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland have now made these available in a new database called the Hubble Space Catalog.

The Hubble Space Catalog can be considered to be the HST’s legacy achievement, expected to serve the needs of researchers for decades. According to Tamás Budavári, astronomer and member of the Hubble Source Catalog development team. “Not only is it a one-stop shop, but it’s the first place to go. It’s the table of contents for and the summary of most Hubble observations. If a zillion investigators pointed Hubble in the same direction at their region of interest in different wavelengths, now we have taken all of those observations and put them together into a compilation of the measurements for all objects within that region.”

The database makes it easier and quicker for researchers to find Hubble measurements for the astronomical objects they want to study. Such searches would have taken months earlier, but can now be completed in minutes or even seconds. HST’s three main cameras – the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, Advanced Camera for Surveys, and Wide Field Camera 3 – record observations across the spectrum, from ultraviolet to visible and near-infrared light. The HSC lists a compilation of measurements for all sources, including brightness, color and shape.

The HSC was modeled on existing databases like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and is compatible with them. The Hubble Space Catalog can be accessed by researchers, amateur astronomers, media, students, and the general public. It is available here.

The Hubble Space Telescope has already helped decipher some of the most compelling mysteries in astronomy – dark matter, exploding stars, the age of the universe – and with the HSC, this legacy will be continued for a long time to come.