Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy 20th Birthday Hubble!

The Hubble Space Telescope

Okay, it's a belated happy birthday to the Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble's 20th birthday was actually on April 24, which was also, ironically, International Astronomy Day, too.

Launched into orbit on April 24, 1990 aboard the shuttle Discovery, Hubble was officially commissioned the next day. Since then, Hubble has not only beamed some of the most spectacular deep space images ever captured back to Earth, but has literally seen 13.7 billion years back in time to a point just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. For all its triumphs, Hubble was not without its growing pains.

The Hubble became something of an embarrassment when it was first sent up into space. The main mirror was faulty. A subsequent shuttle mission was needed to allow astronauts to replace the mirror. new mirror in place, Hubble became fully operational by 1993.

From its height of 353 miles, far above atmospheric disturbances that plague Earth bound telescopes, Hubble has the clearest eye to the universe that is physically possible. It is estimated that Hubble's images are around 10 times clearer than the best Earth scope images. So far, it has photographed over 30,000 objects, including star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and perhaps most spectacularly, dying stars. Hubble's photos have also helped astronomers discover huge black holes at the center of galaxies, that the universe is expanding at a quickening pace, and the first organic particles in space.

For all its achievements, Hubble is now near the end of its life, as it is scheduled to be replaced in 2014 by the James Webb infrared space telescope.

Humble requests:

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