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The Amazing Telescope That Needed Glasses To See

Hubble Telescope (Getty Images)
Cone Nebula (Getty Images)

Conceived in the 1940’s, designed in the 1970’s, built in the 1980’s, it was in April of 1990 that the Hubble telescope was placed into orbit by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery. But a huge problem when they tried to get it to work – its main mirror had a flaw – 1/50th of an inch off, so the first images were blurry.

Hubble was basically useless for three years until a repair mission basically outfitted Hubble with glasses. It worked and since then it’s been sending back images of the universe ten times clearer than any telescope on earth ever delivered.

Hubble is about the size of a bus, it’s powered by the sun and orbits the earth once every 97 minutes. In its 24 years of orbiting the earth it’s recorded a comet’s collision with Jupiter, provided a look at the surface of Pluto and shown views of distant galaxies that up until then scientists could only imagine. It provides so much information that in a week it would fill up 3/4ths of a mile of books on a shelf.

Over the years astronauts have visited Hubble for repairs and upgrades five times, but with the end of the space shuttle program there’s no way to periodically lift Hubble into a higher orbit. If nothing is done, it’ll fall back to earth in 2024. On its last service mission astronauts attached a ring to Hubble so that a robotic spacecraft could pull it back up, but the robot to do the job and the mission aren’t planned yet. NASA has about a decade to get it done.

It’s named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble who came up with the big bang theory of earth’s creation.


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