Our Universe is filled with full of mysteries and surprises. Theoretically we are yet to understand the grand design of the universe. We have been using the best technology to explore this mysterious universe and to reveal its secrets. It was exactly Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990 we did a great contribution in space exploration which is still helping us in many ways to get an idea on our universe.
On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Earth with its precious cargo, the Hubble Space Telescope. The next day, astronauts released the telescope into space to begin its journey of discovery. No one could have predicted what wonders Hubble would see in the 30 years that followed. From our own cosmic backyard to the far reaches of the universe, Hubble showed us properties of space and time that for most of human history could only be imagined.
Hubble’s keen eye sees ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light, and delivers its wide range of discoveries through images and spectroscopy. The telescope has investigated our own solar system and characterized the atmospheres of planets around other suns. It has shown us how stars form, live out their lives, and die. Hubble has revealed intricate details of the shapes, structures, and histories of galaxies, as well as discovered supermassive black holes in galactic centers. Observing the cosmic frontier, Hubble has uncovered some of the universe’s earliest galaxies, explored the nature of the enigmatic dark matter, and built upon the discovery of the yet-unexplained phenomenon called dark energy.
Today, Hubble continues to churn out groundbreaking science, revealing new views of cosmic wonders and helping to answer even more of astronomy’s major questions. In the future, it will partner with NASA’s next great observatories, the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), to provide complementary science.
Hubble is revolutionizing modern astronomy, not only for scientists, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for Hubble’s top scientific achievements. Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging and accessible for people of all ages. The space telescope’s iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.
“Hubble has given us stunning insights about the universe, from nearby planets to the farthest galaxies we have seen so far,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “It was revolutionary to launch such a large telescope 30 years ago, and this astronomy powerhouse is still delivering revolutionary science today. Its spectacular images have captured the imagination for decades, and will continue to inspire humanity for years to come.”
Unencumbered by Earth’s blurring atmosphere, the space observatory unveils the universe in unprecedented crystal-clear sharpness across a broad range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light.
Hubble’s top accomplishments include measuring the expansion and acceleration rate of the universe; finding that black holes are common among galaxies; characterizing the atmospheres of planets around other stars; monitoring weather changes on planets across our solar system; and looking back in time across 97% of the universe to chronicle the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies.
Hubble has peeled back the secrets of the universe, revealing a cosmos burning with creation and destruction on a massive scale. According to a release from the European Space Agency, the telescope has made a staggering 1.4 million observations, which have fueled the creation of 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers.
Hubble’s longevity can be attributed to five space shuttle servicing missions, from 1993 to 2009, in which astronauts upgraded the telescope with advanced instruments, new electronics and on-orbit repairs. The venerable observatory, with its suite of cameras and other instruments, is expected to stay operational through the 2020s, in synergy with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C
Celebrating in Hubble’s way-Cosmic Reef
The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 30th launch anniversary with the release of a breathtakingly colorful portrait of two star forming nebulae – collectively nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef” – located in a nearby galaxy orbiting the Milky Way. Despite a rocky start that kicked off with a potentially mission ending complication, the telescope is still going strong, and continues to reveal the wonders of the universe in stunning detail.
The newly released image is a perfect example of the dramatic scenes that Hubble has captured over the course of its 30-year journey exploring the universe.
Two nebulae are detailed in the visible–light image– the bright blue NGC 2020, which is located on the left of the image, and the larger NGC 2014, which dominates the rest of the piece. This dramatic scene unfolded some 163,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud – a satellite galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. The bright blue stars that stud the image have a mass around 10 times that of our Sun. These leviathans blast out intense streams of radiation and stellar winds that push away the surrounding cocoon of gas from which they coalesced.
Because of their massive size, these stars will live relatively short lives, at least in cosmic terms – just a few million years compared to the 10 billion years lifespan of yellow dwarfs like the Sun. But, in that time, they dramatically shape their surroundings.
The red cloud made of hydrogen gas and dust that dominates the image is in the process of being forced outwards by winds emanating from a concentration of energetic young stars to be found near the center of the image. As the gas moves farther into the void, it forms bubbles. Over many thousands of years this has made the nebula look like a piece of coral, hence NGC 2014’s nickname – the “Brain Coral.”
While the Brain Coral is shaped by the influence of multiple stars, the smaller, blue NGC 2020 Nebula located on the left of the image is being sculpted by a single enormous stellar body roughly 15 times the mass of our Sun, and 200,000 times as bright. It belongs to a rare family of stellar bodies called Wolf-Rayet stars. This particular stellar powerhouse may be just a few million years away from ending its life in a dramatic supernova.
The surrounding cloud comprises oxygen expelled from the surface of the star, which has been heated to a temperature of 11,000 °C (19,800 °F). causing it to glow a vivid blue.
Let’s celebrate Hubble’s 30 years in space with some spectacular images took by the mission.
Hubble has allowed us to stare back into the distant past, and observe the magnificent structures that populate our often strange, and always beautiful universe. Eventually, Hubble will be forced into retirement as it starts to show its age, and new cutting-edge telescopes are launched.
But that’s a problem for a different time. The old master has years of life left in it yet.
Credits: NASA, ESA, Hubble Telescope’s Official Websites