5 Things We've Learned From The Hubble Space Telescope

On April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed into orbit from the payload bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery. On the anniversary of this milestone in space exploration, here are five things you didn't know about the Hubble Space Telescope...

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It Was Named After A Famous Astronomer The Hubble Space Telescope takes its name from Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer whose observations helped broaden scientists’ view of the universe to include galaxies other than our own.  In 1923, while working at the Mount Wilson Observatory, he realized that Andromeda, then thought of as a nebula, was a galaxy hundreds of thousands of light years away from our Milky Way. He made another groundbreaking discovery in 1929, when he helped quash the “static universe” theory by finding evidence that galaxies move away from one another at a constant rate. Hubble died in 1953, but the the telescope that bears his name has confirmed and improved upon his theories.

The Challenger Disaster Delayed the Launch of The Hubble Telescope In 1986, seven astronauts died when the space shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after launch. NASA’s space fleet remained grounded due to the tragedy, which left the Hubble launch questionable since it needed to hitch a ride on the space shuttle. It finally went into space in 1990, riding in the cargo bay of the space shuttle Discovery seven years behind the original schedule and running more than $1 billion over its budget.

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It Has Recorded The Deepest Images Of The Universe The Hubble focused on an empty piece of sky for 10 days in 1995, and the result astonished its operators. It revealed galaxies never seen before and previously undiscovered star systems. Images taken recently show thousands of galaxies as distant as 13.2 billion light-years away. Since the light from these galaxies has taken eons to reach our solar system, it offers astronomers a window to what the universe looked like only a short time after the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago.

Hubble Technology Helped Lead To Better Methods For Detecting Breast Cancer Like other NASA programs, Hubble spawned “spinoff” technologies that proved useful in other fields of science. One of the most significant breakthroughs concerns the observatory’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, which Hubble used to search for supermassive black holes. Medical professionals used the same silicon chips to more effectively image women’s breast tissue and distinguish between benign and malignant tumors.

Anyone Can Make A Request To Use The Hubble Telescope Every year, Johns Hopkins University’s Space Telescope Science Institute issues an open call for proposals to conduct observations using Hubble. While there are no restrictions on who can apply, the competition is extremely tough. Hundreds of eager astronomers come forward each year, and following a review by a panel of experts, only around one-fifth of them actually receive time with the telescope.