Top Features and Discoveries of Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble space telescope is named after the famous American astronomer Edwin Hubble who provided the foundation of the Big Bang Theory. He concluded that the Universe was expanding, then he derived the Hubble Law, which describes how rapidly it is increasing [1].

 

The telescope was launched into Earth’s low orbit in 1990 and continues to operate to this day. If you want to find out more about the Hubble space telescope, here are a series of questions and answers that we have provided:

 

  • Who invented the Hubble space telescope?
  • What are the features of the Hubble space telescope?
  • What is the mission of the Hubble space telescope?
  • What are some of the achievements of the Hubble space telescope?
  • When will the Hubble space telescope cease to function?
Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

Who invented the Hubble space telescope?

Since Galileo Galilei pointed his crude telescope towards the heavens in 1610, it became clear that some advancement in optics was necessary for greater clarity.

But one problem persisted as technology evolved, Earth’s atmosphere. This is why huge telescopes are placed on high mountains; the atmosphere there is thinner and allows for better pictures since light is gathered more easily.

Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

The first person to suggest the launching of a telescope in orbit was the German scientist Hermann Oberth. In 1923, he speculated that this was the solution for the distortions caused by Earth’s atmosphere [2].

Rocket launches became more common, the idea more feasible, and in 1969, the green light was given. Development took longer than expected, and in 1975, the European Space Agency teamed up with NASA for the project.

It took two years for Congress to fund this project. The telescope, firstly named as The Large Space Telescope, was renamed in honor of Edwin Hubble.

Much later, the first space telescope was finally launched on April 24, 1990; however, it was only in 1993 when it became genuinely active after a needed repair/further modification.

What are the features of the Hubble space telescope?

The Hubble space telescope is one of the most powerful in the world. It has a 2.4 meter / 7.9 feet mirror. The four main instruments can observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum [3].

Since it orbits outside Earth’s atmosphere, extremely high-resolution images are easily captured. This instrument has already captured some of the most detailed light visible images, peering into deep space.

Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

It can lock onto a target more than a mile away without moving more than the width of a human hair. The primary mirror can collect around 40,000 times more light than the human eye.

It is equipped with cameras, spectrographs, and fine guidance sensors. Solar panels power it while a space shuttle is used for regular upgrades and repairs.

Hubble is maneuvered by an elaborate system of direction controls to improve its stability during observations. A set of reaction wheels is present, which moves the telescope into space, and gyroscopes monitor its position.

What is the mission of the Hubble space telescope?

It is one of the most important scientific projects. The mission of the Hubble space telescope is to orbit above Earth’s distorting atmosphere to analyze and capture deep-space objects such as galaxies, nebulae, stars, and more [4].

The reason why it is named after the famous astronomer Edwin Hubble also correlates with this since he made some of the most essential breakthroughs in astronomy.

Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

The telescope was designed as a high standard flagship mission and has successfully paved the way for other space-based observations. It can access the otherwise invisible ultraviolet part of the spectrum and also has access to areas of the infrared, which isn’t visible from the ground.

Its mission can be quite comparable with that of the crew in SCI-FI show Star Trek, “to boldly go where no one has gone before,” at least in a metaphorical sense.

Because of the Hubble space telescope, we have garnered astonishing information about our Universe, some of which are mentioned below.

What are some of the achievements of the Hubble space telescope?

During its 30 years in orbit, the Hubble space telescope has created the most amazing pictures of the cosmos [5]. The information gathered by Hubble has changed the way we understand the Universe. 

Here are some of the numerous and formidable achievements by the Hubble Space Telescope:

1. The age of the Universe

This was one of Hubble’s priorities. Using the data transmitted by the space telescope, researchers have pinned down the age of the Universe at around 14 billion years old.

This was done by measuring the brightness of the Cepheid variable stars – a star which pulses on a set cycle. Such information ultimately refines our models of the Universe, and how everything in it, formed.

Photo by Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

2. Deep galaxies

One of Hubble’s most iconic views of the Universe was the series of thousands of galaxies observed at different locations. The sheer vastness of the Universe had been revealed before us, thanks to the Hubble space telescope.

2. New moons & exoplanets

Through the Hubble space telescope, we have observed many different moons and exoplanets. For example, Hubble discovered four of the five moons of the dwarf planet Pluto. It peered into the atmospheres of alien worlds.

3. Seasons on other planets

Hubble has been essential in tracking seasonal changes on other planets. As an example, it followed Jupiter’s weather allowing researchers to see color changes in bands of clouds present in the gas giant’s atmosphere.

When will the Hubble space telescope cease to function?

Like all good things in life, the Hubble space telescope will sadly one day cease to operate. It is estimated that the telescope will last until either 2030 or 2040  [6].

However, the Hubble space telescope will have a successor. It is named the James Webb Space Telescope. The new space telescope is scheduled to be launched in March 2021.

Hubble space telescope
Credit: NASA

This new telescope will have improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble. It’s overall greater features will enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology.

In comparison to Hubble, the Webb telescope will not orbit the Earth. It will instead orbit the Sun from a point beyond the Moon.

Regardless, the Hubble space telescope will forever remain among humanity’s greatest achievements. It will continue to serve its mission for many years to come.

What are the best images captured by Hubble Space Telescope?

Did you know?

  •  At the time of its launch, the Hubble space telescope had a mass of 11,110 kg / 24,493 lbs.
  • Since 2018, the Hubble space telescope has made over 1.5 million observations of more than 43,500 celestial objects.
  • Hubble’s observations have produced more than 153 terabytes of data, with around 80 gigabytes of data each month.
  • Astronomers have published more than 15,500 scientific papers using Hubble’s data. This makes Hubble one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.
  • The telescope whirls around Earth at 28,000 km / 17,398 mi an hour. It completes one orbit in around 96 minutes. Its circular orbit takes it approximately 570 km / 354 mi above the ground.
  • As of 2018, Hubble has already made more than 163,500 trips around Earth. Those trips correspond to around 6.4 billion km / 3.9 billion mi.

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