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Mercury magazine

Spring 2020 - Volume 49, Number 2

Spring 2020 - Volume 49, Number 2

Table of Contents




[20] Space News

A rundown of some of the most exciting developments in space and time.

[25] Cosmic Views

Take a dip into a vast cosmic lagoon, and investigate a supermassive black hole’s enormous jet

[27] Hubble’s Handlers

The 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates both the instrument and the creative people who have kept it going.

[35] Searching Hubble’s Archives for Hidden Gems

Because of its data collection and archival system, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed how — and who — can do science.



[3] Perspectives, Liz Kruesi

Hello, Mercury Readers

[4] First Word, Linda Shore

Astronomy in the COVID Age

[6] Annals of Astronomy, Clifford J. Cunningham

Was There a Comet in 17 BCE?

[8] Astronomer’s Notebook, Jennifer Birriel

More than Pretty Pictures: Adventures with Hubble

[11] Armchair Astrophysics, Christopher Wanjek

Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Black Hole

[13] A Little Learning, C. Renee James & Scott T. Miller

Light Curves and Coronavirus Curves

[18] Education Matters, Brian Kruse

Virtual Teaching: An Adaptation, Not a Replacement

[39] Reflections, Liz Kruesi

Storms on Jupiter


Hubble’s Handlers (Feature)

By Steve Murray

As of April 24, the astonishing Hubble Space Telescope completed 30 years in space (about 164,500 orbits). Many astronomers who use Hubble today weren’t even born when it was launched. Hubble’s success is owed to three decades of hard work by scientists and engineers who push its capabilities and fix its problems. And as these people look back on Hubble’s accomplishments at this anniversary, they’re equally excited about what it will achieve in the future.


Searching Hubble’s Archives for Hidden Gems (Feature)

By Sarah Wells

For nearly three decades, a treasure trove of data and discoveries about the cosmos has sat safely in a Maryland facility stored inside hundreds of tapes, laser-written optical disks, magnetic disks, and computer “jukeboxes.” Spurred by requests from around the world, workers in the ’90s and early ’00s would rummage through dense aisles of these data-filled vessels day-in-and-day-out to collect, copy, and share the information collected by one of NASA’s most ambitious projects: the Hubble Space Telescope. Recently, this massive database of every Hubble observation has been moved to the cloud, providing access to anyhow with an internet connection. Discoveries made using the Hubble archive have not only shaped our understanding of science in the past decades but how we do science as well.


Take a Dip into a Vast Cosmic Lagoon (Cosmic Views)

By Jason Major

Dive into the central region of the Lagoon Nebula — aka Messier 8 — an enormous interstellar cloud located within our own Milky Way Galaxy.