The best images from Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble’s discoveries have transformed the way scientists look at the universe. Its ability to show the universe in unprecedented detail has turned astronomical conjectures into concrete certainties. It has winnowed down the collection of theories about the universe even as it sparked new ones, clarifying the path for future astronomers.
Among its many discoveries, Hubble has revealed the age of the universe to be about 13 to 14 billion years, much more accurate than the old range of anywhere from 10 to 20 billion years. Hubble played a key role in the discovery of dark energy, a mysterious force that causes the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
Hubble has shown scientists galaxies in all stages of evolution, including toddler galaxies that were around when the universe was still young, helping them understand how galaxies form. It found protoplanetary disks, clumps of gas and dust around young stars that likely function as birthing grounds for new planets. It discovered that gamma-ray bursts – strange, incredibly powerful explosions of energy – occur in far-distant galaxies when massive stars collapse. And these are only a handful of its many contributions to astronomy.
The sheer amount of astronomy based on Hubble observations has also helped make it one of history’s most important observatories. More than 6,000 scientific articles have been published based on Hubble data.
The policies that govern the telescope have contributed to its incredible productivity. The telescope is an instrument for the entire astronomical community – any astronomer in the world can submit a proposal and request time on the telescope. Teams of experts then select the observations to be performed. Once observations are completed, the astronomers have a year to pursue their work before the data is released to the entire scientific community.
Because everyone gets to see the information, the observations have given rise to a multitude of findings – many in areas that would not have been predicted by the telescopes original proposals. Hubble’s success with these policies has helped spread them throughout the astronomical community, and they are becoming common with other observatories.
Clips/Images: NASA, ESA, ESO, Hubble
Music: Moby (“Lift me up”)
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