The Hubble Telescope: Shedding Light on the Universeby: David Miller
Space is always well noted for being the "final frontier", as it has yet to be fully explored by humans, unlike the Earth. However, space exploration at this time is still limited and dangerous. The materials and resources required for the exploratory missions are expensive. However, scientists have compensated for this by sending an observatory telescope to measure activity in space without being blocked by Earth's atmosphere. The Hubble Telescope is a pioneer in astronomical discovery, its findings still providing meaningful information even over a decade after its launch.
Before the Hubble Telescope
Edwin Hubble was one of the first astronomers to notice that there were multiple galaxies beyond the one that Earth was positioned in. However, the biggest problem with Earth based telescopes was the problem of the Earth's atmosphere. So Hermann Oberth, one of the founding fathers of rocketry, proposed the idea of launching a telescope into space and after the successful launch of satellites into space, NASA began working on the Large Space Telescope.
The Creation of the Hubble Telescope
The Large Space Telescope, later named the Hubble Space Telescope, was NASA's first project to put a telescope into space. Teams of scientists came up with designs for the telescope as well as designating certain instruments that would either capture certain objects in space or measure forms of light waves. The Space Telescope Science Institute was then created to help evaluate proposals and manage observations made by the telescope.
The Launch of the Hubble Telescope
The launch of the Hubble Telescope was actually delayed several times. First it was delayed in 1983 because of budgeting problems and engineering requirements. Then in the year it was supposed to be launched, 1986, the Challenger accident forced NASA to halt space shuttle missions. Finally in 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery carried the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around the Earth and the Hubble Telescope began to relay new information to scientists.
How the Telescope Works
The telescope, using various instruments, makes observations about particular objects in space. These observations are then converted into computer data and then sent to computers on Earth. This data is then turned into meaningful information or pictures. The telescope studies light within the visible spectrum, ultraviolet light which has wave lengths shorter than visible light, and infrared light which has longer wavelengths than visible light. These measurements of light are used by scientists to make measurements of distance and size of an object.
Maintenance of the Telescope
Over the years, several servicing missions have been sent to the telescope to either do repairs or replace outdated materials. One of the first missions was to fix an imperfection in the mirror of the telescope which was causing images that Earth received to look blurry. Two other service missions followed, and the fourth and last service mission was completed in May of 2009, updating equipment and fixing necessary repairs.
What Has Been Learned From Hubble's Images
The images and raw data from the Hubble Telescope have revealed several important discoveries, such as the age of the universe, dark energy, the stages of galactic evolution, and protoplanetary disks to name a few. The images have also provided detailed information about planets in this solar system, as well as planets in other solar systems. Plus, the Hubble Telescope has compiled quite a bit of data on stars and star cycles in far-away galaxies.
The Importance of the Hubble Telescope
The Hubble Telescope, itself and the data and images it provides, can be utilized by any astronomer at any time. Since the telescope's launch, over 10,000 scientific articles have been published using the data from the Hubble Telescope. Astronomy and science in general has garnered so much information from this one instrument. Once the Hubble Telescope is retired, plans for another orbiting observatory are being put into place to replace the Hubble, because of the importance of space telescopes.
- NASA: The Hubble Story
- Hubble Essentials
- Hubble Timeline
- Everything You Wanted to Know About the Hubble Telescope But Were Afraid to Ask
- European Space Agency: The Hubble Space Telescope
- Inside Story of the Telescope that Nearly Wasn't Built
- Hubble Space Telescope HST Overview
- Hubble Telescope Marks 22nd Anniversary of Launch into Space
- Hubble's Top Ten Discoveries
- The Future of the Hubble Space Telescope(PDF)