On April 24, 1990, 8:33:51 am EST, the historic Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit by Space Shuttle Discovery. The 2.4 metre (7.9 feet) telescope is now 22 years old and what better way to celebrate then to look back at its stunning images.
“Hubble touches people. When you're looking that far out, you're giving people their place in the universe, it touches people. Science is often visual, so it doesn't need translation. It's like poetry, it touches you.” – Story Musgrave, American surgeon and astronaut.
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is legendary and extremely effective in understanding our universe. Orbiting outside of Earth’s atmosphere, the telescope, which is named after influential astronomer Edwin Hubble, can take stunning photos without any background light.
Although it was generally a tool to enhance public relations for astronomy, the HST is one of the largest, versatile and complex space telescopes built, operated and maintained by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Since the early 20th century, scientists proposed the development of space telescopes. It wasn’t until 1970 that Hubble was funded, but due to budgetary issues, technical difficulties and the Space Shuttle Challenger breaking apart and killing seven crew members, the HST had its launch delayed from 1983 to 1990.
In the last 17 years, HST has experienced four repair, upgrade and replacement missions. It was scheduled to receive a fifth mission, but after Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated and killed seven servicemen, it was delayed. It wasn’t until 2009 that a final service mission was approved.
Hubble will now be in operation until 2014. In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s successor, will be launched and have a mission length of 10 years. Its mission parameter consists of four primary tasks: understand the formation of stars and planetary systems, search for light from the first stars and galaxies in the universe following the Big Bang, study the origins of life and study the formation and evolution of galaxies.
To pay homage to Hubble, which has provided us with superb images over the years, here are photos taken by the telescope.
Hubble is deployed from Space Shuttle Discovery.
Hubble Control Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, 1999
Mars Near Opposition 1995-2005: 2001
Edge-on Spiral Galaxy ESO 243-49
HST-Spitzer Composite of Galactic Center (Full-field)
Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star
Supernova 1994D in Galaxy NGC 4526
This pair of galaxies, NGC 4676, also known as "The Mice" for their tails of stars and gas, have collided and will eventually merge into a single galaxy. Streams of material have been tugged out of the galaxies by the force of gravity, triggering new starbirth.
Edge-on Spiral Galaxy ESO 243-49
The large Whirlpool Galaxy (left) is known for its sharply defined spiral arms. Their prominence could be the result of the Whirlpool's gravitational tug-of-war with its smaller companion galaxy (right).
Gas released by a dying star races across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour, forming the delicate shape of a celestial butterfly. This nebula is also known as NGC 6302 or the Bug Nebula.
This shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.