Hubble Space Telescope Celebrates 30 Years in Space
On April 24th 1990 a telescope that changed the way we look at our universe was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. This year the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates 30 years in space and NASA have released a spectacular image to celebrate. The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the most breath-taking deep space images ever seen, from aurora borealis on the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, to an image containing the most distant galaxy ever discovered.
The telescope is named after famous American astronomer Edwin Hubble, he is famous for using a method of working out distances to stars and scaling that to work out the distances to galaxies, which in turn allowed him to work out that the universe is expanding and also expanding faster the further away it is observed from the Earth. These were ground-breaking discoveries of their time and the Hubble Space Telescope used these same methods to work out distances to the furthest objects we have ever observed in our universe. Hubble’s important achievements include measuring the expansion and acceleration rate of the universe; finding that black holes are common amongst galaxies; characterising the atmospheres of planets around other stars and looking back in time across 97% of the universe to chronicle the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies.
The incredible image released by NASA has been named ‘Cosmic Reef’ and is of two colourful nebulae in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a smaller galaxy that is around 163,000 light years away from the Earth. The bigger, red nebula is NGC 2014, and the vivid, newly formed stars at its heart are 10-20 times the size of our Sun, according to NASA. The blue nebula, NGC 2020, was formed when a star 200,000 times larger than our Sun ejected a gigantic amount of gas. “It’s Hubble’s exquisite vision from its orbit above Earth’s atmosphere that gives us the ability to get a clear glimpse of this kind of incredible beauty and activity.” Jennifer Wiseman, Hubble Senior Project Scientist said.
As we mentioned before, the Hubble Space Telescope has even managed to capture aurora borealis on other planets in our solar system! Using its ultraviolet capabilities, Hubble captured spectacular images of the northern lights on the poles of Jupiter and Saturn! Do not worry, the Aurora Borealis Observatory is still the best place in the solar system for a northern lights holiday, travelling to Jupiter and Saturn would be time consuming and incredibly dangerous. Not only are the auroras huge in size, they are also hundreds of times more energetic than auroras on Earth. And, unlike those on Earth, they never cease. While on Earth the most intense auroras are caused by solar storms — when charged particles from the Sun penetrate the upper atmosphere, excite gases and cause them to glow red, green and purple — Jupiter has an extra source for its auroras.
The huge magnetic field of the gas giant snatches charged particles from its surroundings. This includes not only the charged particles within the solar wind but also the particles thrown into space by its orbiting moon Io, well known for its abundant and huge volcanoes.
“It was revolutionary to launch such a large telescope 30 years ago, and this astronomy powerhouse is still delivering revolutionary science today.” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA said in a statement. “Its spectacular images have captured the imagination for decades and will continue to inspire humanity for years to come.” The Hubble Space Telescope continues to inspire us to this day and throughout the coming aurora season at the Aurora Borealis Observatory, our astronomer will be giving talks for our guests on their northern lights holidays using many of the spectacular Hubble images that have been released for the public to use.