Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our understanding of the cosmos. NASA considers the deployment of the Hubble telescope as the most significant advance to studying the universe since Galileo’s telescope in 1609.
Key facts about the Hubble telescope
The following are some of the key factors associated with the Hubble telescope, as noted by NASA:
- This telescope has made more than 1.3 million observations.
- This telescope has traveled more than 3 billion miles along a circular Earth orbit (at an approximate altitude of 340 miles from Earth).
- This telescope is 13.3 meters (or 43.5 feet) long.
- The primary mirror of this telescope is 2.4 meters across (or 7 ft., 10.5 in. across).
- This telescope can enable viewing objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds.
According to the Hubble telescope’s website within NASA’s site, more than 14,000 scientific articles have been published so far based based on this telescope’s data.
Importance of Hubble’s cameras
The Wide Field Planetary Camera (WFPC) was the primary work-horse of the Hubble telescope from 1993-2009. This camera “sees” the following three different kinds of light, albeit not simultaneously: 1) near ultra-violet (UV), 2) visible, and 3) near infra-red (IR).
The WFPC2 was installed in the Hubble in 2009, and occurred during NASA’s Servicing Mission 4. It had a far greater resolution and field of view than its predecessors, so enabled increased imaging of the galaxy.
Accomplishments of the Hubble Telescope
As a telescope, the following are its five main accomplishments, according to an article in January of 2017 in Forbes Magazine:
- The original Hubble telescope “deep field” – ability to view miniscule details (e., less than 0.002 square degrees).
- Visualization of Jupiter in acute detail – including as it was struck by a comet.
- Imaging of an ultra-rare “ring” galaxy – Arp 147 (an interacting pair of ring galaxies that lies 430-440 million light years away from Earth, and in the constellation termed Cetus).
- Gravitational lenses ( along with multiple image capacity, arcs, and increased magnification).
- Visually-capturing the birth and death of stars.
The Hubble telescope enabled confirmation that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in our Universe alone. However, one of its foremost achievements was the evidence it produced for galaxies that existed just 500 million years following the “Big Bang” event.
Successor to Hubble Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is planned as the successor to the Hubble, which will be retired. The new space telescope’s purpose is basically to “see” out to the universe’s edge—and its launch-date is scheduled for October of 2018.
The following are just three of the tremendous differences between these two telescopes:
- The Hubble’s single glass mirror has a 95.4 inch diameter, while the JWST’s mirror is composed of 18 segments with a 21.3 foot diameter.
- The JWST will be positioned 1 million miles from earth, as compared to the low-Earth orbit of the Hubble telescope.
- The Hubble’s mission length was more than 25 years, while the JWST’s mission length is expected to be only 5-10 years due to its fuel requirement.
Indeed, Air and Space Magazine describes the JWST as ‘Hubble Times 100’!