Hubble Upgrades Will Give Space Telescope Cosmic Super VisionS

The Hubble space telescope, near and dear to we space-loving Gizmodo editors, is about to get tuned-up, courtesy Atlantis. The astronauts are also installing two new gadgets that MSNBC says bestows "superpowers." That's pretty accurate.

And it's completely fitting too, given that this voyage is the last trip NASA will take to service Hubble. But enough sad news on Mother's Day, what's with these "superpowers?"

The first power is "three-in-one vision," provided by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which will allow Hubble to see the light spectrum simultaneously, from ultraviolet to infrared. The gadget also grants Hubble the ability to see "cosmic cobwebs" that stretch out and connect galaxies. These new abilities should double or tripe the rate at which NASA discovers distant supernovae.

The other addition, called the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), costs $70 million and sniffs out ultraviolet light with reckless abandon. What once took 10 Earth orbits to observe will now take just one. Extremely dim objects that took a year to observe properly will be cataloged in weeks.

Unsurprisingly, both gadgets, used in tandem with with existing tech on Hubble, are designed to seek out dark matter and energy. Oh, and alien planets too:

"For example, you might be able to see whether a planet's atmosphere has hydrogen or carbon or oxygen in it," said Ken Sembach, Hubble project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

NASA expects the first data from these new instruments to be delivered by Labor Day. [MSNBC]