screen shot of Hubble Space Telescope

Question: Can someone identify this photograph of the Hubble Space Telescope seen as a still in the Los Angeles Times YouTube video Scientists witness huge cosmic crash, find origins of gold, figure out how it was taken, and explain the following strange things about the image:

  • super-bright light coming from one end of the tube
  • warped and twisted solar panels tilted at strange angles
  • "glow" around the bright end

There is more discussion of Hubble's solar panels in comments and answers to Is the Hollywood “Enemy of the State” satellite at all based on a real satellite?.

I can't stop thinking of this:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the planet eater $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


For the solar arrays, they have been replaced a couple times, and that "generation" of solar arrays always looked warped Old Hubble arrays According to this quora post https://www.quora.com/Considering-Hubble-Telescope-is-25-years-old-have-the-solar-panels-been-replaced-at-least-once-given-their-degradation-in-space-happens-much-faster it was due to a failed compensation mechanism for the solar array deploymer/actuator.

Concerning the glow, that's the servicing end with towel bars for the shuttle to perform docking so Hubble can be serviced. The glow is likely just a reflection of the sun along with some lens flare on the image. It's hard to light balance space photos if you have a high light section surrounded by the darkness of space. This is also probably why we see no stars in the image?

How it was taken would be an interesting guess. Based on the resolution of the photo I think it has to be before or after a servicing mission, and looking that the timeline https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/servicing/index.html It seems that there were both old solar array and no color photos for SM1, so it rules that out, along with second generation solar arrays (the ones in question) being replaced by SM3B. The look of the photo seems the match the style of the SM2 photos on thst page, so my guess would be that an astronaut took the photo sometime between Feb. 11-21, 1997. EDIT: Found to have been taken in 2002, see comments.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this answer is totally complete, but gets most of the way there. $\endgroup$
    – mothman
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! do you think it was taken through a dirty window perhaps? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ The photo was taken Mar 3, 2002 on SM3B. asd.gsfc.nasa.gov/archive/sm3b/gallery/images/mission3.html $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect the 'flare' is an out-of-focus reflection of something behind the camera, so I assume the picture was taken through a window. $\endgroup$
    – user21103
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is all correct but wow the right solar array (in the picture in the question) looks like an Escher drawing, it's hard to tell whether it's in front or behind of the scope even though you know it's in front. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 14:43

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