In case you have been stranded on a remote island and have not heard, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is turning 25-years old today! Although known popularly for the stunning images produced from the data it has gathered, the HST has contributed critical new data that has accelerated human understanding of our universe time and time again. Hubble has given us greater understanding of such fundamental things as the very age of the universe, the process by which planets form, and the role supermassive black holes play in galaxies. In 2008 the HST discovered the first organic molecule on a planet outside of our solar system, and today is making invaluable contributions to the study of Dark Energy.
The photo at the right is of Galaxy Cluster Abell-1689 taken by Hubble in 2002 was the first to exploit gravitational lensing to gain information about the effects of Dark Energy. As light from distant galaxies passes other, very massive galaxies it is bent and distorted by gravity and by the effects of Dark Energy. Scientists have since been able to use the HST and this method as a valuable tool to increase our understanding of Dark Energy. Click Here for more information about this image.
The Hubble story is one of inspiring determination, perseverance, and success. Shortly after its deployment scientists discovered a flaw in its main mirror. Although the flaw was only about four-millionths of an inch in the contour of the mirror it was enough to render the instrument almost useless for observing faint objects. Developing a solution required NASA engineers to not only correct for the error, but to also develop processes to service the HST in space. These repairs were a terrific success and created capabilities that would be needed several more times over the life of the telescope as upgrades and repairs were needed. Although missions to Hubble have involved great expense and peril the cumulative results are that today the HST is more powerful than its designers could have hoped for and remains in service well past its original life expectancy.
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