The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is just about to celebrate its 25th Anniversary on Friday, April 24. The space telescope has made over a million observations since its launch about 25 years back.
The space telescope was named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble and was launched from the Earth in 1990 in collaboration between the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
"This is 1970s technology, and it is still, after 25 years, the most powerful scientific instrument in the world," says Patrick McCarthy, an astronomer who is working on the Giant Magellan Telescope under construction in Chile.
Scientists suggest that Hubble has already made over 1.2 million space observations and astronomers have published more than 12,800 scientific papers from the data collected by the giant telescope. Scientists claim that Hubble is one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built by humans.
Hubble has helped scientists refine the estimated age of the universe. The space telescope has detected distant supernovae and also uncovered that the universe is still accelerating and is not decelerating under its own gravity.
The high resolution images taken by Hubble of deep field space have found many galaxies and observed their black hole. Observations of these galaxies have helped scientists to understand how galaxies are created.
The space telescope also captured images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 colliding with Jupiter in 1994. The images taken by Hubble were even sharper than any other taken since the flyby of Voyager 2 in 1979. Scientists claim that comet collisions with Jupiter are quite rare.
Astronomers have also taken the help of Hubble to observe dwarf planets such as Pluto that are located in the outer reach of the Solar System.
Hubble has successfully captured many images of SN 1987A, which is a supernova that exploded just three years before it was launched. Hubble observed the supernova and took hundreds of pictures that helped researchers to understand how it changed after the explosion.
Mankind is now in search of life beyond Earth. In 2008, the telescope captured the first image of a planet in an orbit around another star called Fomalhaut b. Hubble has also identified 16 probable planets that are orbiting other stars.
Hubble has come across several problems over the last two decades and scientists are already working on the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor of Hubble. The JWST is scheduled to be launched in the low-Earth orbit in October 2018.