1. The Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 is the oldest and longest working instrument aboard the Hubble Space Telescope. It was placed aboard Hubble in December 1993.
2. The Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 does not use film to record its images. Instead, four postage stamp-sized pieces of high-tech circuitry called Charge-Coupled Devices (CCDs) collect information from stars and galaxies to make photographs. These detectors are very sensitive to the extremely faint light of distant galaxies. They can see objects that are 1,000 million times fainter than the naked eye can see.
3. The Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 will return to Earth with the astronauts when Space Shuttle Atlantis touches down. (The shuttle is scheduled to launch on May 11, 2009, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.)
4. One of the most famous images in all of astronomy, the "Hubble Deep Field" required 342 separate exposures taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 over ten consecutive days between December 18 and 28, 1995. Staring at one spot in the sky for ten days, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 kept taking pictures one after another for the entire exposure time, accumulating data. The Hubble Deep Field image covered a speck of the sky only about the width of a dime located 75 feet away -- yet uncovered a bewildering assortment of at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of evolution.
5. Shuttle astronauts will replace the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 during their mission to Hubble with the Wide Field Camera 3. This new camera is based on the design of the original Wide Field and Planetary Camera, which was launched on Hubble back in 1990. Several components of the original Wide Field and Planetary Camera -- which the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 replaced in 1993 -- were used in the manufacture of Wide Field Camera 3.