What Is The Hubble Space Telescope?

It has helped us peek into the distant parts of the cosmos for three decades.

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Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is one of NASA‘s most important tech creations. It was launched into space in 1990 and has helped humans learn more about the universe. Whether related to our solar system or images of distant galaxies, HST has uncovered plenty of interesting data in its lifespan till now.

Named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, HST lifted off into the low-Earth orbit aboard a space shuttle named “Journey.” This point is approximately 570km away from the Earth’s surface. The Hubble’s deployment meant fulfilling a vision that was first recommended by Lyman Spitzer in 1946.

Hubble Space Telescope: Exploring the universe!

Talking about its dimensions, the telescope is around 13.3m long, 4.3m wide, and weighs about 12,200kg. It orbits our planet at a speed of approximately 27,000km/hr and takes around 95 minutes to complete one revolution.

However, it isn’t the first telescope to find a home in space. Back in 1968, NASA deployed the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO-2).

HST detects a wide range of light wavelengths, including visible light, ultraviolet, and to some extent, near-infrared. This enables the telescope to analyze the heavenly objects in our galaxy and capture a glimpse of stars that were born way back in time.

Hubble’s versatility is due to the various upgrades it has received over the years. Multiple servicing missions have improved NASA’s prized possession significantly, allowing it to peer as far back as over 13.4 million light-years.

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The second servicing mission in 1997 enhanced the space telescope’s range into near-infrared, making it possible to view the cosmos even farther. By 2002, NASA’s servicing missions had eventually replaced every equipment originally lifted off with Hubble.

Courtesy of regular upgrades and over 30 years in space, Hubble has made around 1.5 million observations since its launch. These observations have resulted in more than 19,000 scholarly publications that further received around 900,000 references in other papers.

Important discoveries made by Hubble Space Telescope

Here are some of the notable space explorations that wouldn’t have been possible without the Hubble Space Telescope.

  • HST helped refine the Hubble constant, which in turn allowed scientists to calculate the age of the universe as 13.7 billion years old
  • It allowed scientists to observe Supernova and determine the universe’s accelerating expansion speed. Eventually, they found that “dark energy” caused this acceleration.
  • Further, it enabled the creation of a three-dimensional map of dark matter.
  • It discovered almost all the galaxies surrounding a black hole.
  • Interestingly, it traced the presence of oxygen and carbon on an exoplanet (HD 209458b)
  • In another first, it captured pictures of two previously-unknown moons of Pluto.
  • It identified the presence of water vapor on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.
  • For the first time, it helped scientists find out the true color and a detailed weather map of an exoplanet.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer at Fossbytes, who writes about gaming and anything remotely related to tech, including smartphones, apps, OTT, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to talk about games or send any feedback, drop him a mail at [email protected]

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