Launch date: April
Launch vehicle: space
Time to orbit Earth: about
Orbital speed: 27,200
km/h (16,900 mph)
Altitude: 600 km (370
Most recent servicing mission: March
distant nebula where stars were born, photographed
by the Hubble. Photo courtesy of NASA.
Hubble is in orbit right now, making history by sending
back around 10 to 15 gigabytes of images and data to
astronomers every day. So far, the Hubble has examined
over 25,000 features in space, including distant galaxies,
black holes and nebulas where stars are born. The images
sent back from the Hubble are beautifully amazing and
give us a peek deep into the universe. But even more
importantly, each new observation has the potential
to support or contradict popular astronomical theories.
the Hubble was launched, it had a slight defect in
one of its mirrors, which meant that the first images
sent back from the telescope were more blurry than
expected. But since the Hubble was designed to be upgraded
and serviced by astronauts, the first servicing mission,
which took place in 1993, added some corrective lenses
as well as a more powerful camera. Then the Hubble
could send back views of the stars that were better
than any ever seen from Earthprimarily because
it was outside the Earth's atmosphere, which distorts
our view of space. (The atmosphere is what makes stars
of the galaxies seen in the Hubble Deep Field.
Photo courtesy of NASA and STScI.
of the most amazing areas of research undertaken by
Hubble scientists has been the Hubble Deep Field (HDF)
project. Because the HDF project examines objects billions
of light years away, the light the Hubble captures
is from events that happened billions of years ago.
So when the Hubble captures images from far away into
the deep universe, it's also like looking back in time.
Studies of the HDF images have uncovered many surprising
new discoveries, such as the occurrence of a "stellar
baby boom" shortly after the Big Bang which peaked
around three billion years later. Most of the stars
that exist today were born during this stellar population
explosion. The HDF research has also supported the
theory that the universe looks the same in all directions.
addition to the things we have learned from the Hubble
about the nature of deep space and the history and
development of the universe, we have also found out
more about our own cosmic neighborhood. The Hubble
data revealed the existence of oxygen on Europa. Plus,
the Hubble relayed photos of a volcanic eruption from
Io, spotted storms on Neptune, Jupiter and Mars, captured
images of Saturn and Jupiter's auroras and even gave
a weather report for the Pathfinder landing on Mars.
Outside our galaxy, the Hubble data confirmed the existence
of black holes and sent back data on the phenomena
of star death, quasars and more. Images from the Hubble
have also revealed that flat disks of dust and gases,
thought to be possible precursors to planet formation,
encircle many developing stars.
servicing the shuttle in the bay of shuttle Columbia
during the most recent servicing mission. Photo
courtesy of NASA.
the latest servicing mission, which happened in March
2002, the Hubble was upgraded with a new set of three
cameras, new solar wings and a cooling unit to support
an infrared camera that's already on board. The new
cameras will give Hubble ten times more power to see
far-off objects, which will make it possible for Hubble
scientists to look for planets outside our solar system.
Space Telescope Links
NASA's huge Hubble site features the latest news, images
and even behind-the-scenes webcams of Hubble-related
NASA projects. The site also includes a Hubble timeline
of all past and future servicing missions and a helpful
glossary, which offers explanations for a host of Hubble
Best of the Hubble Space Telescope
This site from the Students for the Exploration and Development
of Space (SEDS) is all about images! The main page includes
links to some of the best Hubble images, listed by subject.
This subsite of the HubbleSite will take you deep into
the universe using images from the Hubble along with
music and sound. To get the maximum effect from the page,
be sure to turn on your speakers.