The Legendary Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 – Part 1 of 2

Hubble Space Telescope “workhorse” instrument — the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) which was built by JPL and added to the observatory in December 1993 — is behind most of Hubble’s famous pictures. WFPC2 is the telescope’s main camera. It observes just about everything, recording razor-sharp images of faraway objects in relatively broad views, covering wavelengths from ultraviolet to near-infrared.

NGC2074 in LMC by HubbleYou may not known WFPC2, but I believed you must have seen a lot of its images. If you ever wonder why some of Hubble’s images has a funny wacky shape (see right), then you are looking at a product of WFPC2.

The unique WFPC2 design results in the stair-step appearance of many of its images. The “heart” of WFPC2 consists of four cameras: one high-resolution “planetary” camera and three “wide-field” cameras. Although the planetary camera sees a smaller region of the sky, it delivered a finer-detailed image because it compact the same number of pixels into a smaller area. The difference between the wide-field cameras and the planetary camera is like the difference between a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens.

Hubble WFPC2

Each of the 4 cameras records a separate image that represents one part of the overall view. After that, the magnified view from the planetary camera is reduced to the proportion of the other 3 wide-field cameras, resulting in one small image and three larger images. And when the four images are stitched together, the wacky shape emerges in the final image. Click here for illustration.

For 15 years, WFPC2 had non-stop producing breathtaking images of our universe. But just like everything else, someday, it has to come to an end. And that someday is now… During Hubble Servicing Mission 4, which is under way now, a new and improved version camera – the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) – will replaced this old workhorse.

NASA’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 is more than just a scientific instrument, it is a tool of artistic expression; it’s “painting” of the universe not only has scientific but also artistic values that can be admired by all of us.

Hourglass Nebula by Hubble

The Hourglass Nebula, taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, is pretty enough to frame. Read more: A Universal Art Form: NASA’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.


~ by thChieh on May 17, 2009.

One Response to “The Legendary Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 – Part 1 of 2”

  1. […] This is the famous globular cluster Omega Centauri, zoom in to the very core of the giant cluster. This is taken by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) which replaced the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). […]

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