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HST @ STScI Update

R. Osten (osten[at]stsci.edu)

Last year was another banner year for a new high number of refereed papers using HST data, and passed a bar at more than 1000 science papers published in one year. More than 60% of these papers came entirely or partly from archival data. The Hubble Space Telescope team won the Michael Collins award for current achievement from the National Air and Space Museum. The citation called out science systems engineers for their creative approach to operating a 30-year-old spacecraft which enables revolutionary science. A special session at the winter AAS meeting highlighted science synergies between Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope, laying out how the two observatories can work with each other to answer pressing scientific questions. Hubble operations continue remotely with little to no impact on users, enabling ground-breaking science to continue.

Chart showing over 1,000 refereed papers
Figure 1. Number of refereed papers published per year using data from HST. Colored sections indicate the relative contribution of different categories of papers in this stacked plot.

Hubble science aims high, and delivers

Hubble's exploration of the cosmos shows no sign of slowing down. There were more than 1000 refereed papers published using Hubble data in 2019, setting a new record (Figure 1). There are now more than 17,000 refereed science papers in the literature using Hubble data, with a combined total of more than 800,000 citations.

For a deeper look into the types of papers produced, refereed science papers are sorted into four categories. Papers in the GO category derive from Guest Observer (GO) programs, where there is overlap between the proposal investigators for a given dataset and the paper authors, while the Archival Research (AR) category contains papers derived wholly from datasets with no overlap between the proposal investigators of the original datasets and the paper authors. A third category is a hybrid of the two, namely part GO/part AR category; these papers contain a mix of both new and archival data. The fourth category is "Not Assigned," and contains papers difficult to attribute to one of the other categories.

Recent results continue the trend of a steadily increasing fraction of papers originating in whole or in part from archival data; in 2019 that fraction was a little over 60%. Peek et al. (2019) argued that Hubble's open archives were responsible not just for the large fraction of its scientific productivity, but that the archive also increases scientific accessibility. It does this by expanding the number of institutions doing science with Hubble data, as well as broadening access in other countries.

GO-only papers showed a fast rise in the first 8 years, with 35 more papers published in each year compared to the previous one. Stoehr et al. (2015) noted that the early years of scientific output of the ALMA observatory was on par with this early scientific production from Hubble.

A period of slower increase of GO-only papers has followed since then, with roughly six more papers produced each year than the previous year. This is the same rate of increase for papers containing part-GO and part-AR data. The rate of publishing of archive-only papers has been steady from launch until now, with an average of 15 more archive-only papers published per year compared to the previous year. The number of AR-only papers has exceeded GO-only papers since 2003, with a sharp jump in 2019. The figure exhibits a healthy mix of use of both new and archival data for advancing scientific frontiers using Hubble data.

Hubble Team wins award

The National Air and Space Museum announced February 13, 2020 that the Michael Collins award for current achievement is being presented to the Hubble Space Telescope Team. Established in 1985, the award recognizes outstanding achievements in the fields of aerospace science and technology and their history. The citation reads:

           As the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 30th year in operation, the team behind Hubble will receive the 2020 Collins Trophy for Current Achievement. Hubble has changed humans' fundamental understanding of the universe, having taken over 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers have used to write more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications on a broad range of topics. Through the efforts of the Hubble team since 2018, the observatory has continued to produce science unachievable with any other instrument, including studies of the first possible moon orbiting a planet outside the solar system, imaging the first known interstellar object to visit the solar system and finding water vapor on an extrasolar planet in the habitable zone. System engineers in Hubble's control center and science operations facility have continued to find creative ways to operate the 30-year-old spacecraft to make this revolutionary science possible and ensuring its capabilities will continue for years to come.

Congratulations to the entire Hubble Team at GSFC and STScI for this accomplishment!

AAS Special Session redux

A special session at the recent winter AAS meeting focused on how to maximize the science from both HST and JWST once they are both operational. The session, titled "Maximizing the Science from Two Great Observatories," highlighted some of the science results coming out of the JWST Preparatory Program, a category of HST observing proposals awarded since Cycle 24 meant to capitalize on observations with HST now that will enhance the science return of future observations with JWST. Speakers further described recent results with Hubble and how the two observatories can work together to answer pressing scientific questions. A panel discussion with the audience following the talks explored additional synergies between the missions.

The table below lists speakers and talk titles. Collected slides from the session are available in STScI's Outerspace

Author, Institution


Molly Peeples, STScI

Overview of Joint HST/JWST Science Policy Synergies

Nikole Lewis, Cornell

Transiting Exoplanet Science in the Era of HST and JWST

Nitya Kallivayalil, U. Virginia

Proper Motion Studies of Stellar Populations in the Local Group and Beyond

Joel Green, STScI

Cameras a Million Miles Apart: Stereoscopic Imaging Potential with the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes

Steven Finkelstein, U. of Texas Austin

Observations of the Early Universe with HST and JWST

Janice Lee, CalTech

Connecting Gas and Stars in the Local Universe

Hubble operations continue remotely amid coronavirus concerns

Science operations of Hubble at STScI and flight operations at GSFC are continuing via remote working from home, with only minimal essential staff onsite, to comply with government orders to stem contagion of the novel coronavirus that is now gripping the world. Near-future events have either been cancelled or postponed—please see the Event Updates web page for an up-to-date listing of the current status. Some events are taking place but using remote connectivity for all participants, such as the Space Telescope User's Committee spring meeting, and the Cycle 28 Telescope Allocation Committee. While some activities planned for Hubble's 30th anniversary on April 24th have been delayed, the anniversary image will be revealed as originally planned. The BBC is also releasing an hour-long special celebrating the mission and its scientific discoveries.


Peek, J. E. G., et al. 2019, 2019BAAS...51g.105P

Stoehr, F., et al. 2015, ESO Messenger 162, 30, "ALMA Cycle 0 Publication Statistics"