(The following is an open letter to Greater New Milford-area residents from the volunteers at the McCarthy Observatory on the campus of New Milford High School.)

Dear friends of the McCarthy Observatory,

Happy spring -- we think.

The big news in the United States' astronomy world this month is the 25th birthday of the Hubble Telescope launch, to be feted April 24.

Much has been published by NASA leading up to the birthday about the amazing history of the development, launch, the many technical challenges and great triumphs over its long life, and the superb science it is now capable of doing -- very far beyond what was even dreamed of during planning in the 1970s and '80s.

The Hubble Observatory is now rightfully acclaimed as "The Most Important Science Instrument In History."

Its discoveries in so many parts of the universe make the case superbly.

It has made spectacular discoveries in the solar system, in our local region of the galaxy, throughout the Milky Way, in our neighbor Andromeda Galaxy, and across the known universe, including now discovering and studying galaxies that formed less than 500 million years after the dawn of the universe.

Astronomers specializing in each of the above fields continue to line up battling for prized "Hubble time" for their science.

With five servicing missions to repair and enhance it from 1993 to 2009, it has emerged as a true "dream machine," enabling new exploration and revisiting many previous discoveries with "new eyes."

It was targeted for 15 years of operation and, at 25, the outlook is now for at least making it to 30 years, and 35 years is stated as "not out of the question."

This optimism has led the scientists to plan ever-more-challenging, longterm exploration projects, so the discovery rate is likely to get even more impressive in coming years.

The current generation of astronomers have spent their careers very savvy in what the Hubble can do, so the science is likely to be more spectacular.

Our communities can take great pride in all this -- the eight-foot diameter Hubble mirror was finished in Danbury, and the fine guidance sensor system was invented and manufactured there.

That system has a pointing precision of locking on a location the size of a dime at 2,295 miles -- the distance from the McCarthy Observatory to the California border.

Improved versions of these sensors have been installed on servicing missions, so our region has contributed to the enhanced capability through the 25 years of service.

So celebrate with us.

Sing Happy Birthday to the Hubble on April 24, and join in our Hubble Birthday Party at Second Saturday Stars on May 9.

"The Most Important Scientific Instrument in History" deserves to be celebrated.

Please wander around www.hubblesite.org and see the breathtaking images, and especially see the video taking you on a 3D tour of the Hubble Extreme Deep Field, wandering through a time tunnel 13 billion light years deep, of 3,000 galaxies in a very tiny area of the universe.

Amazing... hubblesite.org/videos/video_details/22-cosmic-exploration-hubble-extreme-deep-field.

Meanwhile, there have been two important new discoveries in astronomy in the last couple of weeks:

The Milky Way very possibly is not structured as we have believed -- it is possibly 50 percent broader at 150,000 light years across, and rippled like expanding waves in a pond, not flat.

This is fantastic, if it is borne out after more study. Visit news.rpi.edu/content/2015/03/09/rippling-milky-way-may-be-much-larger-previously-estimated.

Jupiter's Moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, is now known to have much liquid salt water under a deep crust of ice -- possibly more than Earth's oceans, per NASA.

That was discovered using the Hubble telescope.

Where there is liquid water, we will be studying for primitive life forms at some point.

The discovery method for this immense body of water is an amazing story of astronomical sleuthing -- told in this article: www.space.com/28807-jupiter-moon-ganymede-salty-ocean.html

The volunteers

McCarthy Observatory

New Milford