Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eighteen Years Later And Hubble Is Still Amazing

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the launch of Hubble Space Telescope via the Space Shuttle Discovery. NASA has some videos and cool hi-res pictures to celebrate the anniversary here. Interesting fact- Hubble was supposed to have been sent up in October 1986, but due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster it was not sent up until 1990.

One of the main advantages of Hubble is that the telescope is over 300 miles above the earth. NASA's Hubble site exaplins further-

The Hubble Space Telescope is the direct solution to a problem that telescopes have faced since the very earliest days of their invention: the atmosphere. The quandary is twofold: Shifting air pockets in Earth's atmosphere distort the view of telescopes on the ground, no matter how large or scientifically advanced those telescopes are. This "atmospheric distortion" is the reason that the stars seem to twinkle when you look up at the sky.

The atmosphere also partially blocks or absorbs certain wavelengths of radiation, like ultraviolet, gamma- and X-rays, before they can reach the Earth. Scientists can best examine an object like a star by studying it in all the types of wavelengths that it emits.

Newer ground-based telescopes are using technological advances to try to correct atmospheric distortion, but there's no way to see the wavelengths the atmosphere prevents from even reaching the planet.

The problem with this is that if the telescope has any mechanical malfunctions, as it did when it was first deployed, fixing it can be a little tricky.

If you drop your phillips head screwdriver up here let it go because man, it's gone. They probably bring extras.

It's tough to choose a favorite pic from Hubble, because each is just so mind-blowingly awe inspiring. You can check out many at this link, but the following pic is one that pretty much makes me realize just how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things.

The core of the spectacular globular cluster Omega Centauri glitters with the combined light of 2 million stars. The entire cluster contains 10 million stars, and is among the biggest and most massive of some 200 globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy. Omega Centauri lies 17,000 light-years from Earth.

Happy Birthday Hubble!

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