Dark Matter – Dark Energy
April 24, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is Launched from Discovery
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle on April 24, 1990 and remains in operation. HST has a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) aperture set in a low Earth orbit. The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble.
Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely sharp images with almost no background light. Hubble’s Deep Field have been some of the most detailed visible-light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Between 1993 and 2002, four missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope. The telescope is now expected to function until at least 2013. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is to be launched in 2018 or possibly later.
Top Ten Hubble Discoveries:
10. The Source of Long Gamma Ray Bursts
Scientists are able to track the gamma ray bursts back to galaxies with rapid star production, like the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy (pictured). Gamma ray bursts occur when one of the galaxy’s massive stars collapses in on itself.
9. Accurate Measurement of the Hubble Constant
A key component in the equation that measures the speed at which the universe expands. Pictures of far-off super novae, the remnants of one are pictured here.
8. Stellar Populations
Hubble can focus on individual stars in our closest galactic neighbors and has allowed scientists to better understand the history of our corner of the universe.
7. Collision Images
In 1994, fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter (pictured here), and Hubble provided the first ever recorded images of a collision between two bodies in space. Aside from simply looking cool the photos show the scars left by the collision.
6. Counting Planets
Pictures from the Hubble went a long way towards answering that question. By capturing images of the solar debris disks that eventually coalesce into planets (like the disk shown here around a star in the Orion nebula), the Hubble showed that planets are far more common than scientists previously thought
5. Extrasolar Planets
First shot of a planet outside of our solar system
4. Black Holes
Hubble actually took a shot of one of those black holes that the debate was put to rest. Hubble discovered that there are black holes in the center of the galaxies.
3. Deep Field Shot
The Hubble Deep Field Shot, the most magnified picture of a spot of the sky ever taken with optical light, provided this gorgeous image, and gave scientists the information they needed to accurately calculate the age of the universe.
2. Dark Matter
Dark matter may make up as much as 22 percent of the material in the universe. Hubble was able to take a picture of light bent by the gravitational lens of nearby dark matter, thus detecting the previously undetectable.
Arguably the most important Hubble discovery is that of dark energy, which is this form of energy that propels the expansion of the universe. We discovered in 1998 that this expansion was speeding up.