April 24th of this year marked the twentieth anniversary of Hubble, the telescope that orbits Earth. It is one of NASA’s most successful and long-lasting science missions.
Why did NASA put the telescope in space? So its view would not be compromised by the Earth’s atmosphere, which distorts and blocks the light reaching our planet. This is one of the biggest disadvantages from which ground-based telescopes trained at the outer space suffer.
Hubble’s discoveries have helped in the advancement of scientists’ understanding of the universe enormously. The telescope’s unique position gives it the best seat to view the universe around it and record it. The information Hubble has gathered over the years has helped scientists look at the universe in a whole new light.
Here are some fascinating facts about The Hubble Space Telescope (gathered from its official site):
- It was launched into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.
- It sweeps around the Earth once every 97 minutes.
- It has revealed the age of the universe to be about 13 to 14 billion years, much more accurate than the old range of anywhere from 10 to 20 billion years.
- It has played a key role in the discovery of dark energy, a mysterious force that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
- It is kept up to date and on target by periodic servicing missions from astronauts high above the atmosphere.
- It has a ‘ground crew’ that tells it what to do.
- It’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is currently in the works. It is scheduled to launch in 2014.
- It is expected that Hubble’s components will slowly, over the years, degrade to the point at which it will stop working. When that happens, Hubble will continue to orbit Earth until its orbit decays, allowing it to spiral toward Earth.
Messages for Hubble:
NASA has many things planned for celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the telescope. Among them is its invitation for Hubble’s fans to leave a message in Hubble archives, and hence for posterity.
Never is the adage a picture speaks volumes more appropriate than in this context. So, without further ado, I bow out and leave you with some more astounding pictures (courtesy: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album) from Hubble’s album that has been created over the past two decades.
For further information and many more mind-blowing pictures, visit: http://hubblesite.org.