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Hubble vision; Space telescope is 25 today.


IT is 25 years since the space shuttle Discovery put the Hubble Telescope into orbit.

Since April 25, 1990, this hugely powerful machine, which cost nearly PS2billion to launch, has helped answer questions that had baffled scientists for decades.

It has also provided memorable images vever before been seen by man. Francisco Diego of University College London's Physics and Astronomy department says: "With unprecedented detail these decorated front pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide. "But beyond images, its spectrometers have analysed the light of faint objects inaccessible from the ground."

Today we bring you 25 of the most astonishing facts about the Hubble Space Telescope...

1 Hubble has captured images of galaxies so far away that the view we get of them comes from a period when the universe had just been created. Scientists studying the photographs are effectively looking back in time.

2 It completes a spin around Earth every 97 minutes, moving at around five miles per second.

3 Hubble orbits almost 324 miles above the Earth.

4 The space telescope was named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble, who showed that the fuzzy patches of light in the night sky were actually other galaxies, far distant from our own, and went on to prove that the universe was expanding.

5 Before Hubble, astronomers had been unable to pin down the age of the universe - all they knew was that it was created 10-20 billion years ago. The tele- scope has let them measure the size and expansion of the universe since the Big Bang, from which its true age can be calculated. This is done by locating pulsing stars, called Cepheid variables, whose cycles of intensity and dimness indicate their brightness. With this technique Hubble narrowed the age of the universe down to 13.7 billion years old, plus or minus a few hundred million years.

6 Instruments on board include a 2.4-metre mirror. The larger the mirror, the better its vision. Light hits the telescope's main mirror and bounces off that on to a secondary mirror, which focuses the light back through a hole in the centre of the primary mirror and on to the telescope's instruments.

7 After launch, scientists discovered Hubble had a "squint" which required a PS530million fix. While the pictures were still clearer than ground-based telescopes, they were also blurry. A flaw about 1/50th the thickness of a sheet of paper was distorting the view.

8 Hundreds of engineers and computer scientists are responsible for keeping Hubble operating and monitoring its safety, health and performance.

9 Astronomers focused it on what appeared to be a nearly empty patch of sky and let it soak up all the light it could for 10 days.Most observations take just hours. The results turned up a treasure trove of 3,000 galaxies large and small, burning in the depths of space. The stunning image created by this was called the Hubble Deep Field.

10 The telescope runs on the equivalent of 20 car batteries, recharged by solar panels.

11 Hubble sends the archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute enough information to fill about 18 DVDs every week.

12 The idea for the space telescope arose in 1923, when German scientist Hermann Oberth suggested blasting a telescope into space aboard a rocket.

13 Hubble has discovered planets orbiting distant stars, even allowing astronomers to see changing weather.

14 More scientists want to use the telescope than there is time available, so a review committee of experts has to pick out the best proposals from the bunch. Each year around 1,000 proposals are reviewed and about 200 selected for a total of 20,000 individual observations.

15 Four antennae send and receive information between Hubble and the Flight Operations Team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt in the US state of Maryland.

16 Despite its speed through space, Hubble can lock on to a target with only 0.007 "arc- seconds" of deviation. This amounts to the width of a human hair see from a mile away.

17 Putting the telescope above the distortion of Earth's atmosphere lets it take very high-res images with no inter- ference from background light.

18 The Hubble found the first organic molecule on a planet beyond the solar system - this was methane in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet blisteringly close to its star.

19 The Hubble weighs 11 tonnes and is the size of a bus.

20 It discovered the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way.

21 The telescope has made 1.2 million observations since 1990 22 Hubble lets astronomers see the spinning discs of leftover matter that form new stars. These erupt from jets of intense radiation trillions of miles long, traveling at 500,000mph.

23 In 1994, Comet Shoe-makeLevy 9 plunged into the atmosphere of Jupiter, sending up plumes of debris. Hubble had a spectacular view of what scientists said was a once-in-a thousand-yearevent. Then in May 2009, while astronauts were installing new instruments on the Hubble, the planet was struck again.

24 Eventually, Hubble's time will end. As the years progress, its components will slowly degrade to the point when the telescope will stop working.

When that happens, Hubble will continue to orbit Earth for some years before spinning back down.

25 Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Tele- scope, is currently in the works. It will study objects from the very earliest days of the universe.


IN ORBIT The 11-tonne Hubble Telescope is the size of a bus

INSPIRATION Astronomer Edwin Hubble, right, with Einstein and other scientists

RED PLANET Hubble image of our near neighbour Mars

DEEP SPACE New Hubble picture of the Eagle Nebula
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 25, 2015
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