A quarter of a century after the start of its mission, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is still providing us with unprecedented views of the cosmos. Hubble was and still is a unique satellite, collecting images of far off galaxies and stars at an unprecedented resolution, allowing people to see the structures of the Universe for the first time. Spiral galaxies, supernovas and star clusters came into view, no longer things of science fiction, they are real, bright and beautiful. The way we see our Universe has forever changed thanks to the gorgeous images from Hubble.
To commemorate 25 years in space, NASA has released a spectacular image of Westerland 2, a giant cluster of over 3,000 stars. They have also produced a three-dimensional video that flies toward the center of the nebulae and its hot, bright clouds. The images are just bursting with stars, giving the impression of cosmic fireworks inside star factory, Gum 29, in the constellation Carina. Due to its relative youth, the cluster has yet to disperse the stars further from its center, creating this fabulous star-riddled landscape.
Check out this documentary of NASA’ Hubble Space Telescope, detailing its history and innovation. (Video Credit: NASA)
Hubble’s initial performance was less than stellar, due to a spherical aberration attributed to a malfunction in the measuring device during the polishing process. The images that were returned to earth were much lower resolution than expected. This led to multiple missions and engineering ingenuity to help compensate for the error in the mirror. The difference was night and day as you can see below. NASA also created a documentary on Hubble, tracking its history and major breakthroughs in science. The telescope itself is a major milestone in science and technology, the subsequent repairs and engineering creativity is equally as fascinating, making advancements in the field in order to overcome the errors in the mirror.
Hubble has far outlived its 15 year mission, with new instruments and updates it has allowed us to see further into our own galaxy and the Universe. Hubble will be joined by the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, unlike Hubble it will orbit at a much further distance from Earth, even further then the Moon, making it unlikely that a manned service mission will ever be possible. So keep your fingers crossed that the mirror is functional from the outset!