The Hubble Space Telescope Turns 30

Herbig Haro 901 is an immense pillar of gas and dust inside the Carina Nebula, a huge star-forming region in our galaxy. The pillar is several light-years tall and contains a few massive young stars. They shoot out powerful jets that emerge from the cloud. In some cases, the jets create bow-shock patterns similar to the effects of a ship plowing through the ocean. In the visible-light (Hubble) view, very few stars can be seen because the gas and dust block starlight. But in the infrared (Hubble) view, stars become visible and numerous. The visible-light colors emerge from the glow of different gases: oxygen (blue), hydrogen/nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red). The Carina Nebula is approximately 7,500 light years from Earth. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI).

On April 24, 1990 the Space Shuttle Discovery launched with a crew of five astronauts whose primary mission on STS-31 was the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

IMAX Cargo Bay Camera view of the Hubble Space Telescope at the moment of release, mission STS-31.
IMAX Cargo Bay Camera view of the Hubble Space Telescope at the moment of release, mission STS-31. Credit: NASA/IMAX.

Little did they know that the telescope’s main mirror had a flaw that would set in motion a series of future missions to fix and upgrade the telescope. The results have been spectacular. NASA has called the orbiting observatory the “Incredible Discovery Machine.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a collaboration between NASA and ESA and as it turns 30 it’s nearing the end of its mission. The observations Hubble makes are in visible, infrared and ultraviolet light.

ESA: 30 Years of Science with the Hubble Space Telescope

The observations by scientist using the telescope have led to new discoveries and brought insights into the age and expansion of the universe, black holes, supernova, the mass and size of our galaxy, the solar system and more.

While Hubble’s mission will be coming to and end, it does have a successor which will launch next year. The new super observatory is the James Webb Space Telescope.

Below is a documentary by NASA on the story and history of the great observatory. The second video is discussion about Hubble on this milestone hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and includes Canadian historian Chris Gainor who is the author of a forthcoming NASA book on Hubble.

NASA’s Incredible Discovery Machine: The Story of the Hubble Space Telescope

Canadian historian Chris Gainor hosts a discussion on Hubble’s 30th anniversary

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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