April 22nd 2012, a non-descript day for many, but for one orbiting telescope, and her ground crew, this is a very special day, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate her 22nd birthday.
With 22 years of outstanding contribution to scientific knowledge along with some of the most amazing images of space, Hubble’s place in history has already been secured, what will she discover in the next 22 years?
While Hubble has watched the Cosmos we have watched her grow up from awkward glasses wearing kid to becoming the hardest working telescope in the world, James Brown style. 22 years in space technology is a lifetime. NASA has already begun construction of Hubble’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, due to enter service in the next decade.
Included for your viewing pleasure are some of the most eye catching videos of Hubble’s handy work along with the most visually incredible images captured during Hubble’s first 22 years in service.
The Hubble Space Telescope – HST – is the space bound telescope that just keeps on giving. Launched into orbit April 24 1990 Hubble was dogged by a distorted mirror early on. While she was still fully functional her optics were a little blurred until she was fitted with corrective lenses. Now she’s our photographic sniper with coke bottle glasses. With the fix in place by 1993, during servicing mission 1, Hubble has gone on to become one of the most productive telescopes in human history.
The idea to launch a telescope into space had been discussed as early as 1929, Hermann Oberth, Robert Goddard and Kontantin Tsiolkovsky mentioned the idea in their book “The Rocket into Planetary Space”. The technology to bring this dream to fruition though took another 60 years to be ready, but a good idea is a good idea.
The initial funding for HST was approved in 1978, with the first $36 million dollars being committed by the US congress. The Orbital Space Telescope program aimed to have the telescope in obit by 1983. Budget constraints and the Challenger shuttle disaster delayed this by seven years.
After the first servicing mission to correct the lens aberration 3 further servicing missions have been carried out. During these mission failing parts and upgrades have been installed. Not only keeping HST fully functional but also adding new features to her skill set.
NASA has a set of plans to de-orbit the HST by 2025, once her life as a space observer has concluded Hubble will captured and safely sent to her Earthbound grave, de-orbitted to burn up in the atmosphere.
Hubble has contributed greatly to humanities collective knowledge of all things space, even requiring a few new theories for unexpected discoveries. Helping to accurately establish Hubble’s Constant, the speed at which the universe is expanding, just one question Hubble has helped us to answer. Through Hubble’s observations this expansion was proven to be not slowing down as previous theories had suggested.
Aside from the knowledge we have gained with Hubble the other great legacy of Hubble is the incredible library of images she has built over the last 22 years. Follow the link at the end of the article to view the full Gallery of Highpants Hubble highlights.
Firsts for Hubble makes for a very long list, she was the first space telescope and the first to find extra solar planetary systems. Now a seemingly popular pass time for astronomers, Hubble was the first planet hunting observatory, to actually find planets that is.
The Deep Field Images captured by Hubble are another record breaker, images of the furthest observed inter-stellar space, along with being the oldest objects ever observed.
The Deep Field images are some of the most spectacular shots taken by our eye’s in the sky, Hubble. Looking further back in time than ever before, the Deep Field images looked into the darkest depths of space, finding more evidence of the living universe.
The first deep field image was assembled from 342 separate images collected over 10 consecutive days from December 18 to December 28, 1995. To collect the images scientists pointed Hubble at the emptiest piece of night sky, from this dark patch they again selected the darkest section. This continued until they had found a clear path to sights that are 13 billion light years away. These most spectacular pictures are the result of peering into what initially may seem to be empty space.
Three years after the first Deep field images were captured the same process was carried out in the southern hemisphere, creating the Deep Field South image.
In 2004 a deeper image, known as the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF), was constructed from a total of eleven days of observations. The HUDF image is the most sensitive astronomical image ever made at visible wavelengths. All of the Deep Field images are still the subject of intense study, with new wonders being found within the extremely high resolution images that were captured.
The James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s successor, is scheduled for launch in 2015, although that date may stretch out to 2018. The JWST has so far been mired in controversy, with budget over run’s, stories of mis-management and near cancellation by congress, the technical team behind JSWT may suspect the controversy will continue till it is placed in orbit.
A ground breaking space based telescope Hubble rides above all of the noise and interference of the Earth’s surface to deliver the clearest and most accurate astronomical data ever. Hubble is not only helping us to understand the Universe we live in but she continues to produce some of the most amazing images of the wonders of our universe.
Here at Highpants we would like to join NASA and congratulate Hubble on her 22nd birthday, we love your work.
Gallery: Highpants Hubble Highlights Gallery