The Hubble Space Telescope is arguably NASA’s crowning achievement. Known affectionately today by both researchers and the public as the Hubble, the pictures taken by the satellite-based telescope have dramatically expanded human knowledge of our universe.
First launched into orbit on the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Hubble Space Telescope was released into space above the Earth on April 25th, 1990. However, disappointed astronomers soon found out the Hubble was taking fuzzy pictures because the lens was outer edge was too flat by around 2.2 microns. It took three and half years before the Space Shuttle Endeavor Crew replaced the flawed lens in December of 1993, and the Hubble has been dazzling ever since.
NASA has been celebrating Hubble’s 25th anniversary with ceremonies all week long at the Smithsonian Institution and Newseum in Washington D.C.
More on the Hubble Space Telescope
Space telescopes can see much further away because they are not obstructed by clouds or light. Researchers have used this high vantage point to make many detailed observations of planets, stars and galaxies. The Hubble telescope has made over one million observations, and Hubble data has been used in more than 12,700 scientific papers, “making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built,” NASA claims on its website.
The Hubble uses mirrors to gather light from space and then focuses the light on the cameras and other instruments on board.
Hubble captures light in many different wavelengths using a variety of cameras and instruments such as the
- Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which can see near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light.
- Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) that takes images of ultraviolet light.
- Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) that works with visible light.
- Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), a spectrograph that can see ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light.
- Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) is a heat sensor that is sensitive to infrared light so scientists can find objects hidden by interstellar dust.
- Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS), which are used to keep Hubble stable and aimed in the right direction.
The Hubble will likely stop working some timed in the next decade. The original plan had been to bring the telescope home as a museum exhibit, but the shuttle program has ended. That means that NASA is having to develop a backup plan to let the satellite fall out of orbit and splash down in the sea.