Hubble Space Telescope


The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet,visible, and near infared. The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble.

Hubble's orbit around the outside of Earth's atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with almost no background light. Hubble's deep field has recorded 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 earth.

Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. The HST is one of NASA's Great Observatories.

Hubble Discoveries

While Hubble helped to refine estimates of the age of the universe, it also cast doubt on theories about its future. Astronomers from the High-z Supernova Search Team and the Supernova Cosmetology Project used the telescope to observe distant supernovea and uncovered evidence that the expansion of the universe may in fact be accelerating. This acceleration was later measured more accurately by other ground-based and space-based telescopes, confirming Hubble's finding. The cause of this acceleration remains poorly understood the most common cause attributed is dark energy Hubble has helped resolve some long-standing problems in astronomy, as well as raising new questions. Some results have required new theories to explain them.

The high-resolution spectra and images provided by the HST have been especially well-suited to establishing the prevalence of black holes in the nuclei of nearby galaxies. While it had been hypothesized in the early 1960s that black holes would be found at the centers of some galaxies, and work in the 1980s identified a number of good black hole candidates, it fell to work conducted with Hubble to show that black holes are probably common to the centers of all galaxies.The Hubble programs further established that the masses of the nuclear black holes and properties of the galaxies are closely related. The legacy of the Hubble programs on black holes in galaxies is thus to demonstrate a deep connection between galaxies and their central black holes.

Other discoveries made with Hubble data include proto-planetary disks in the Orion Nebula evidence for the presence of extrasolar planets around sun-like stars and the optical counterparts of the still-mysterious gamma ray bursts.HST has also been used to study objects in the outer reaches of the Solar System, including the dwarf planets Pluto and Eris.The collision of Comet Shoemaker-levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994 an event believed to occur once every few centuries.The non-standard object SCP 06F6 was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in February 2006.During June and July 2012, US astronomers using Hubble discovered a tiny fifth moon moving around icy Pluto.

Operating Hubble

All of the Hubble Space Telescope's activities are controlled by people on the ground. The focal point of all Hubble operations is the Flight Operations Team (FOT), which is located at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. Here, Hubble's controllers monitor the telescope's health while overseeing its movements and science activities. The controllers direct Hubble's movements by sending commands via satellite to the telescope's onboard computer. The majority of Hubble's operations are programmed in advance, but controllers can also interact in real time with the spacecraft, telling it what to do and when to do it.

Hubble's flight operations facility operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The specially trained engineers and technicians who comprise the FOT work rotating shifts, with 3 to 4 people on each shift. A typical day involves commanding and pointing the telescope, monitoring its behavior on consoles, and looking for anything unusual in the technical sense.

The ground controllers become even busier than usual during Hubble servicing missions. Shortly after the shuttle is launched, the controllers instruct Hubble to stop normal science operations. To prepare the huge telescope for rendezvous and capture, they command Hubble's aperture door to close and its high gain antennas to be stowed. After capture, as the astronauts install new equipment on Hubble, the controllers immediately test the updates. Later, while the crew sleeps, controllers perform more detailed reviews.

Technologies Used

  • Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)
  • Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS)
  • Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR)
  • Faint Object Camera (FOC)
  • Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS)
  • Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS)
  • Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS/HRS)
  • High Speed Photometer (HSP)
  • Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS)
  • Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS)
  • Wide Field (WFPC)
  • Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2)
  • Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3)