|NASA celebrates the 20th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope |
on Saturday. Though it had a rocky start, Hubble has become an important tool for amateur
and professional astronomers alike.
Twenty years after it first reached space, the Hubble Space Telescope still tirelessly circles the Earth, snapping images of the cosmos and continuing to fulfill its role as the beloved Comeback Kid of celestial imaging.
|Thousands of stars forming in the cloud |
of gas and dust known as the Orion Nebula.
|This newly released image from Hubble |
shows scorching radiation and fast winds
from super-hot newborn stars are shaping
this pillar of gas and dust. This stellar nursery
is called the Carina Nebula and located
7,500 light-years away.
But engineers on the ground quickly modified a spare camera to compensate for the mirror's flaws. When astronauts installed that new camera, along with other modifications, in 1993, the images that came back were perfect. And Hubble's long run of science began. So far, it's observed more than 30,000 targets and has collected more than half a million pictures in its archive.
Astronauts have repaired and refurbished the telescope five times. It looked like its last servicing mission would be canceled because of concerns about the safety of the space shuttles in the wake of the Columbia disaster in 2003 -- a prospect that dismayed scientists. But NASA officials reconsidered and the final servicing mission, in May of last year, made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was launched, according to NASA.
Hubble's discoveries over the years have helped astronomers understand everything from how stars form in our own galaxy to the composition of the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system. Its "Ultra Deep Field" image revealed the most distant objects in the universe. The telescope has also contributed to the study of dark energy and the understanding that the expansion of our universe is speeding up, says Livio.
"Hubble has touched literally on every area of astronomy and astrophysics today. It has really revolutionized astronomy," says Livio. "I would say Hubble exceeded all expectations."