Loved by most, forgotten by few, the Hubble space telescope is still going strong. But for how long?
May, 2009: Astronauts on the space shuttle Atlantis gave the Hubble space telescope one last overhaul. Hubble, like other long-running NASA missions such as the Spitzer Space Telescope, will be reviewed every two years to ensure that the mission is continuing to provide science worth the cost of operating it. NASA declared it planned to operate it until its instruments finally give out, potentially for another six years at least. Many expected it to go down, but unsurprisingly its 26 year old legacy continues.
The Hubble space telescope (HST) launched in 1990 , was not the first space telescope , but it was the best and most versatile one ever sent. Named after the great astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, the Hubble soon became a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy, sending wonderful high-res images of the beyond. But the whole operation was not in the least flawless; Initially expected to launch in 1986 , the challenger disaster delayed the launch by a few years.The images returned during the first weeks were blurred ,and this was attributed to an aberration in its primary mirror.
Every 97 minutes, Hubble completes a spin around Earth, moving at the speed of about five miles per second. Telescopes work by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own. The larger a telescope’s mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision. Hubble’s primary mirror is 94.5 inches (2.4 m) in diameter. This mirror is small compared with those of current ground-based telescopes, which can be 400 inches (1,000 cm) and up, but Hubble’s location beyond the atmosphere gives it remarkable clarity. Hubble is a type of telescope known as a Cassegrain reflector. Light hits the telescope’s main mirror, or primary mirror. It bounces off the primary mirror and encounters a secondary mirror. The secondary mirror focuses the light through a hole in the center of the primary mirror that leads to the telescope’s science instruments.
Hubble has been a great contributor in many fields/topics of research such as dark energy, galaxy formation and evolution, supernovas and extrasolar planets.It has also served as a public telescope and has been used by amateur observers.
How long Hubble can run also depends on NASA’s budget, which is uncertain given the economic challenges in the United States. Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is currently in the works. NASA hope to keep Hubble running for as long as possible, which is music to the ears of all Hubble fans. And it should, considering that the Hubble space telescope has been a revolution, a masterpiece, you could say.