Hubble was launched into space in 1990, and since then its breathtaking photos have helped transform our understanding of the universe. Thanks to Hubble, scientists were able to calculate the age of the universe, at roughly 13 to 14 billions years and learn more about astronomical phenomena like quasars and dark energy. Its photos of planets are spectacular too.
Over the past 25 years, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations and generated a staggering 100 terabytes of data. Narrowing down my favorite image is nearly impossible but I’ve managed to highlight a few.
The Eagle Nebula I’m not sure Hubble has produced a more majestic image than this one of the Eagle Nebula. This image shows the famous “Pillars of Creation” and the nebula’s multi-colored glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-colored elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field Peering back to nearly the beginning of time, this image shakes me at my core and illustrates the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos. This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep” core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old.
The Antennae The galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once spiral galaxies similar to our own Milky Way, the pair have spent the past few hundred million years sparring with one another. This clash is so violent that stars have been ripped from their host galaxies to form a streaming arc between the two. Clouds of gas are seen in bright pink and red, surrounding the bright flashes of blue star-forming regions — some of which are partially obscured by dark patches of dust. The rate of star formation is so high that the Antennae Galaxies are said to be in a state of starburst, a period in which all of the gas within the galaxies is being used to form stars. This is a preview of what might happen when our Milky Way galaxy collides with the approaching Andromeda galaxy in a few billion years.
The Tarantula Nebula About 170,000 light-years away, is a turbulent star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud called the Tarantula Nebula. It is close to Earth that Hubble can make out individual stars. It is home to many extreme conditions including supernova remnants and the heaviest star ever found, R136a1. The Tarantula Nebula is the most luminous nebula of its type in the local Universe as a result of the raucous stellar breeding ground located at its heart known as 30 Doradus.
Helix Nebula The Helix Nebula, located 690 light-years from Earth, is a ball of glowing gas expelled from a dying sun-like star. This image is a composite of a photograph taken by Hubble in 2002 and one by a telescope in Chile in 2003. The object is so large that both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view. It resembles a simple doughnut as seen from Earth but new evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two gaseous disks nearly perpendicular to each other.
This Bird Can Stay in Flight for Six Months Straight
A team of scientists placed a lightweight sensor to alpine
swifts and found that the small migratory birds can remain aloft for more
than 200 days without touching down. While in flight, these birds feed on airborne insects and can rest mid air (although exactly how they are able to rest in mid air remains a mystery).
Hello AstronomicalWonders, I was just wondering what you would consider to be your favorite part of space or astronomy? You may get this a lot too but congrats on going to work for NASA. Being an aspiring astronomer, I would hope to get their soon one day. Thanks for reading.
My favorite part of Astronomy - and all of science for that matter - is the prospect of discovery. Science is at the edge of what we do not know. As Astronomers, we are literally looking into the unknown and discovering our place within the universe. It is amazing to be a part of something that so clearly contributes to the human condition.
Carl Sagan put it best this way:
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building
experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of
human conceits than [a] distant image of our tiny world. To me, it
underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and
to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever
P.S. Thank for the congrats on NASA. I’m very excited to be working there this summer. It is a dream come true. & Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive. It is amazing to me that you are all so awesome, I really never get hate mail on this blog. Thank you all for being so cool!
Friday, April 24 marks the 25thanniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. In its quarter-century of operation, Hubble has broadened our understanding of the cosmos like no instrument before it. To mark the occasion, we spoke with Department of Astrophysics Curator Dr. Michael Shara who worked with the Hubble mission during his time at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Dr. Shara and his collaborators have logged over 1000 hours using the telescope for their work on star clusters, novae and supernovae.
What did your work with the Hubble Space Telescope entail?
I joined the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) in 1982, eight years before the launch of Hubble. I was the project manager for the Guide Star Catalog that is used to target and calibrate the Hubble, and a few years after the telescope was launched, I was responsible for overseeing the peer review committees, which looked over proposals from researchers who wanted to use the telescope.
What was that experience like?
It was amazing to be able to see things coming in astronomy years before they were published. Reading hundreds of proposals and sitting in on deliberations about them was spectacular to watch.
How does it feel to look back on the launch of Hubble, twenty-five years out?
This anniversary is a joyous thing. Watching the deployment of Hubble in 1990 was an amazing, heart-stopping experience.
Hubble’s mission didn’t start out exactly as planned, though, did it?
The first three years were bumpy. When word came back that spherical aberration was preventing Hubble from focusing properly, I think everyone working on the project had the same terrible feeling in the pit of their stomachs. The mission to repair it in 1993 was even more tense than the initial launch, but it was wildly successful, and for the last 22 years, the story of Hubble has been one triumph after another.
What are some things that stand out in Hubble’s history?
It’s hard to pick one, because Hubble has just been a discovery machine. It’s the most productive telescope in history, with thousands of refereed papers published using Hubble data so far. One that stands out is the discovery of dark energy by groups using the Hubble. That was a totally unexpected discovery that essentially lobbed a hand grenade into the world of modern physics.
We also learned much about our own solar system. For example, we saw a comet smash into Jupiter, which helped us understand how frequently these events occur, and what an important role they have played in the development of our solar system.
What makes Hubble such a “discovery machine?”
Part of it is the Hubble Archives. Every image, every spectrum, and every measurement that Hubble takes is stored by STSI. That data is proprietary to the researchers who first gathered it for one year. After that period, the information is free and open to other researchers, as well as the general public. That means there are many astronomers using data in ways the people who gathered it could not have foreseen, like using images that looked for a phenomenon known as microlensing in galaxies to find large populations of novae in those same galaxies.
How has this telescope changed since it was first deployed?
Every few years, Hubble has been upgraded, so it is a much more capable instrument today than when it was launched. The cameras are much more sensitive now, and the infrared and ultraviolet capabilities are vastly better than those available just a few years ago.
After 25 years, how much life does Hubble have left?
Well, the instruments, computers, and gyroscopes on Hubble are doing really well. It’s conceivable that it will be useful until 2021 or 2022. After that, because we don’t have a shuttle program to boost it into a higher orbit, Hubble’s orbit will decay to the point where it finally falls to Earth. But the body of data that Hubble has collected is unmatched, and that information will be put to use for decades to come, and maybe even a century from now.
On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit.
“No matter what Hubble reveals — planets, dense star fields, colorful interstellar nebulae, deadly black holes, graceful colliding galaxies, the large-scale structure of the Universe — each image establishes your own private vista on the cosmos.”- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Happy birthday, Hubble! The celebrated space telescope turns 25 on Friday. To mark the anniversary, NASA set the instrument loose to gaze at some fireworks – that is, space fireworks. Hubble captured the spectacular photos of stars being born in “Westerlund 2,” a cluster of 3,000 stars that is in Gum 29, which NASA describes as a “raucous stellar breeding ground” in the constellation Carina.
Mercury is the innermost planet in the solar system, only 58 million kilometres to the Sun. It’s only slightly larger than our Moon and just as rocky, with extensive plains, heavy cratering, mountains, highlands and valleys. Its atmosphere is thin and any geologic activity the planet once experienced is now extinct, so impacts from comets and asteroids are preserved exquisitely. Mercurcy’s thin atmosphere also means that it has trouble retaining heat, so temperatures fluctuate hugely: up to 430 degrees C on the surface during the day and as low as -180 degrees C at night.
Mercury is one of the least understood planets in the solar system. Only two spacecraft have ever been sent there. Mariner 10 visited in 1974-75, and MESSENGER was launched in 2004 and is still orbit, continually learning about this small but violent planet. The images above are from these missions. Click the images for captions.
The Helix Nebula, located 690 light-years
from Earth, is a ball of glowing gas expelled from a dying sun-like
star. This image was a composite of a photograph taken by Hubble in 2002
and one by a telescope in Chile in 2003.
Science proves that “haters gonna hate”, literally. In a survey of Internet users, researchers asked a bunch of questions to discern the motivations of those who commented on the Internet (presumably beyond “I really want attention.”) Then they further surveyed them to determine how closely their personalities aligned with what psychologists refer to as the “dark tetrad” – Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism – aka the four horsemen of the asspocalypse. According to the results, the minority of responders who admitted to being trolls also racked up off-the-charts scores in all of the “human piece of shit” categories. In fact, psychologists have recently specified a new official personality category for these people. They call it “negative dispositional attitude.”