The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe.
Launched in 1990, this space-based observatory has provided astounding images and data from the farthest reaches of space.
If you want your mind blown about just how incredible Hubble is, keep reading.
1. The Hubble Space Telescope Was Named After Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble made one of the most groundbreaking astronomical discoveries of the 20th century – that galaxies are moving away from each other, indicating the universe is expanding. This discovery went against the prevailing scientific view at the time of a static universe. To honor Hubble’s contribution, NASA named its first great observatory after him. Hubble would certainly be amazed at the stunning galactic images and insights into cosmic expansion his namesake telescope has provided.
2. Hubble Orbits Earth at an Altitude of 340 Miles
The Hubble Space Telescope was specifically designed to operate in the vacuum of space, unhindered by Earth’s atmosphere. At 340 miles above Earth’s surface, Hubble orbits our planet every 97 minutes. This orbit keeps Hubble out of the atmosphere, providing it with a clear view of the universe. If Hubble was on Earth’s surface, the atmosphere would distort and blur its images. In space, Hubble has provided humanity with breathtaking views of distant galaxies, nebulae, and other cosmic wonders.
3. Hubble Is the First Space-Based Optical Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope has a length of 43.5 feet and a mass of over 11 tons, making it comparable in size to a large school bus. Despite its considerable size, Hubble was designed to be deployed and serviced by astronauts in space. Hubble was launched into orbit by the space shuttle
Discovery in 1990, becoming the first space-based optical telescope. For over 30 years, Hubble has provided humanity with an unprecedented view of the cosmos. Its position above Earth’s distorting atmosphere allows it to capture deep-space objects with incredible clarity and detail.
4. Hubble Was Conceived in the 1940s and Launched Into Orbit in 1990
The concept for the Hubble Space Telescope traces back to astronomer Lyman Spitzer in 1946. He proposed the idea of a large space-based observatory above the atmosphere to overcome the blurring effects that disturb ground-based telescope images. After decades of planning, the telescope was named after pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble and eventually launched into orbit in April 1990.
Hubble’s launch and deployment represented a major milestone in astronomy, allowing researchers to study the universe with unprecedented optical resolution and sensitivity. While not the first space telescope, Hubble was the first designed specifically for visible, ultraviolet, and near-infrared observation from space. Its position above Earth’s atmosphere provides a clear view without obstruction, enabling it to capture breathtaking images of distant celestial objects.
Since its launch over 30 years ago, Hubble has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. Its discoveries have shed light on nearly all areas of astronomy, from planets and stars to galaxies and cosmology. Hubble continues to provide amazing views and cutting-edge science over three decades since its launch into low Earth orbit.
5. The Hubble Telescope Is About the Size of a Large School Bus
The Hubble Space Telescope has a length of 43.5 feet and a maximum diameter of 14 feet, making it comparable in size to a large school bus. Despite its massive size, Hubble only weighs approximately 24,500 pounds – lighter than many commercial trucks on Earth.
Hubble was specifically designed to be compact enough to fit inside the payload bay of the Space Shuttle, which carried it to orbit. All of its scientific instruments and subsystems had to fold up into a relatively small package for launch. Once in space, Hubble was designed to unfold into its operational configuration.
The telescope structure consists of two main sections – the Support Systems Module and the Optical Telescope Assembly. The Support Systems Module houses Hubble’s batteries, gyroscopes, computers, and other key operational components. The Optical Telescope Assembly contains the primary and secondary mirrors and Hubble’s suite of science instruments.
While large by satellite standards, Hubble is dwarfed by some ground-based observatories. For example, the Giant Magellan Telescope being built in Chile will have a primary mirror over 80 feet in diameter, far larger than Hubble’s 8-foot mirror. However, Hubble’s location in space provides unique advantages that allow it to see the Universe with great clarity.
6. Hubble Gathers Energy From the Sun to Operate Its Instruments
Hubble Space Telescope utilizes two 25-foot solar panels, harnessing sunlight through silicon cells to generate 2,200 to 2,500 watts of electricity, powering its instruments and systems. Strategically positioned, the panels maximize sunlight exposure during its 95-minute Earth orbit and adjust angles for optimal light absorption. During orbital night, six nickel-hydrogen batteries, each offering around 160 watts and rechargeable approximately 7,500 times during Hubble’s lifespan, supply power for about 24 minutes until sunlight returns. Power, managed by conditioning electronics and ground-based controllers, ensures stable operation of Hubble’s subsystems, enabling continuous observations and significantly advancing our astronomical and cosmological knowledge.
7. Hubble Was Launched Aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 and Remains Operational Today
On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was carried into orbit by the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. Hubble was the first major optical telescope designed to operate in space outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere.
Launched over 30 years ago, Hubble has emerged as one of the most pivotal and productive scientific instruments, transmitting data and images that have revolutionized our astronomical and cosmological understanding.
Although initially planned for a 15-year lifespan, Hubble astonishingly remains fully operational today. Thanks to regular maintenance and upgrades by space shuttle crews, most of its systems have smoothly functioned for over three decades in orbit.
8. Hubble’s Orbit Provides an Unobstructed View of the Universe
Strategically orbiting in low Earth orbit, Hubble provides a clear, unobstructed view of the universe, unhindered by atmospheric interference that affects ground-based telescopes. Soaring above atmospheric layers, it offers a crystal-clear cosmic perspective and boasts a resolution at least 10 times superior to its terrestrial counterparts.
This positioning allows Hubble to capture detailed views of distant astronomical bodies, unattainable by ground telescopes and ensures stable, simplified data analysis for researchers. Ultimately, Hubble’s unique vantage point has been invaluable, profoundly enhancing our cosmic understanding and altering our perception of space and time.
9. Hubble Has Contributed to Some of the Most Significant Astronomical Discoveries
Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. To date, it has made over 1.5 million observations and taken images of nearly 43,000 celestial objects.
Hubble has revealed pivotal discoveries, including evidencing dark energy, determining the universe’s age and expansion, and identifying supermassive black holes. It has discovered four Pluto moons, recognized Eris as a dominant dwarf planet, and identified galaxy-building matter clumps. Additionally, it has shed light on protoplanetary disks and planetary system formation.
Exploring 97% of the 13.4 billion-year cosmic history, Hubble has provided profound insights and iconic images, such as the Pillars of Creation. Its lasting and impactful scientific contributions have solidified its legacy, continuously captivating scientists and the public with groundbreaking data and images.
10. The Hubble Telescope Has Allowed Astronomers to Study Distant Galaxies, Exoplanets, Black Holes, and More
Hubble Space Telescope, perched above Earth’s atmosphere, has revolutionized astronomy with its unparalleled cosmic images and discoveries. It has explored distant galaxies, providing insights into the early universe, and pioneered in identifying and analyzing supermassive black holes. Hubble has also confirmed and analyzed exoplanets, contributing to potential life-supporting conditions research.
Further, it has advanced our understanding of dark matter, dark energy, and the universe’s expansion, while revealing distant galaxies with its Deep Field images and showcasing stunning celestial phenomena. Serving over 30 years, Hubble remains a pivotal, enduring NASA mission, profoundly altering our cosmic understanding and continuing to be an essential exploration tool in astronomy.
Can You See the Hubble Space Telescope From Earth?
No, the Hubble Space Telescope orbits outside the Earth’s atmosphere, approximately 353 miles above the surface. It is too small and too far away to be seen with the naked eye.
How Far Can Hubble See Back in Time?
The Hubble Space Telescope can see back to within 500 million years after the Big Bang, over 13 billion years ago. This allows astronomers to study the early universe.
How Far Is James Webb From Earth?
The James Webb Space Telescope orbits the sun about 1 million miles away from Earth. This distance allows it to have an unobstructed view into deep space.
What Is the Farthest Star We Can See From Earth?
The farthest star visible from Earth with the naked eye is V762 Cas in Cassiopeia, at 16,308 light-years away. The most distant individual star detected by the Hubble Space Telescope is over 30 million light-years away.
The Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with over 30 years of groundbreaking observations that have fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe. Some key Hubble telescope facts are that it orbits outside Earth’s atmosphere to eliminate distortion, it can see back over 13 billion years in time, and it has detected stars over 30 million light-years away. The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to see even farther, to within 100-200 million years after the Big Bang. Telescopes like Hubble continue to push the boundaries of what humans can observe in space.