Friday, April 24, 2015

Hubble telescope celebrates 25th birthday

Hubble Space telescope is celebrating its 25th birthday, marking a milestone in the history of a telescope that defied its early critics to become a crucial tool in space exploration.

Since its launch on April 24th 1990, it's been providing astronomers and non-space experts with breathtaking images of the cosmos.

Unlike land-based telescopes that are at the mercy of Earth's atmospheric conditions, the Hubble enjoys relatively unhindered views from its perch more than 560 kilometers above the earth.

That vantage point has allowed the telescope to provide a stunning picture gallery of distant galaxies, planets and cosmic explosions.

Hubble's images have been instrumental in helping improve the human understanding of how our universe formed and continues to evolve.

Dr. Kenneth Carpenter, project scientist with Hubble, says the telescope is NASA's biggest success story.

"The telescope has exceeded all of our expectations, scientifically, the way it has impacted the culture, the way the people have adopted it as its own telescope. It has been a huge success story, probably NASA's biggest success story over the years, at least outside of the manned space program,"

However, the 1.5 billion US dollar piece of equipment was viewed at one point as a dramatic failure.

"NASA's pride and joy, the biggest telescope in space in years doesn't focus. The pictures aren't any better than they are on the ground."

Shortly after Hubble was put into orbit, scientists discovered the primary camera was out of focus.

An investigation after-the-fact determined that the mirror used in the Hubble telescope was improperly crafted, forcing NASA to send up the space-equivilant of a monocle to correct the 3-year old satellite's vision.

The correction worked, extended Hubble's abilities to peer into the universe and deliver images far deeper than researchers could have ever imagined.

One of Hubble's most famous images is the Hubble Deep Field that was made when the telescope focused on a seemingly black and empty sliver of space.

The images it returned shows the space is actually bursting with young galaxies and bright objects.

NASA astronomers have dubbed it a baby picture of space, suggesting it shows what the origins of the universe and the galaxies were like some 11-billion years ago.

Hubble also made a significant scientific breakthrough when it provided evidence for "dark energy".

This is an unknown form of energy that some scientists theorize is a major factor as to why and how the universe is expanding.

Doctor Kenneth Carpenter says Hubble's observations helped contribute to research on the expansion of the universe which was later honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

"Gravity always wants to bring things together. Dark energy always wants to push them apart and apparently things got further and further apart as the universe expanded, dark energy actually became stronger than gravity at those kinds of distances. Now, the galaxies instead of going apart from each other more and more slowly are actually starting to speed up."

In addition, Carpenter says Hubble's highly-sensitive cameras have led to innovative breakthroughs in everyday technology.

If you've ever taken a selfie, you can thank Hubble for its clarity.

"Technology improvements were driven by the need to create very robust, very cheap, very small electronics for spacecraft like Hubble and that has kind of trickled down and improved our everyday lives,"

Since 1990, Hubble has made more than one million observations.

Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is expected to be launched in 2018.

That telescope is expected to peer even further into space, building on Hubble's success to unlock the secrets of the universe.

 CRI - 

1 comment:

  1. Hubble Space Telescope celebrated 25 years on...

    From helping to determine the age of the universe to proving the existence of black holes, the $2.5bn Hubble Space Telescope has been a hugely powerful tool of scientific discovery.

    Friday marks 25 years since the telescope was first launched.

    It was not the first space telescope, but when it was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990, it carried onboard an unprecedented array of instruments: a 2.4-metre mirror and four main sensors designed to capture ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared light.

    Putting the telescope above the distortion of Earth's atmosphere gave it the ability to take very high-resolution images without the interference of background light.

    "I like to describe the atmosphere being something like looking through an old stained glass window," said Dr Nancy Grace Roman, the first chief astronomer at NASA. "The glass has defects in it and that sort of keeps you from getting a sharp picture, and the atmosphere also has defects."


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