Hubble Space Telescope’s greatest discoveries during its 30 years

Hyperaxion Apr 24, 2020

Over the course of three decades, it has allowed us to see and study the universe like never before – and to this day it continues to surprise us with its breathtaking discoveries.

On April 24, 1990, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope from Cape Canaveral, Florida, which revolutionized astronomy. A partnership between space programs in the United States and Europe, Hubble orbits 550 kilometers from Earth, observing and recording events, and sending information back to our planet.

In three decades, the data and findings collected were used in more than 16,000 scientific publications, which served as the basis for another 800,000 researches. Check out some of the most important ones below:

Where stars are born

Hubble Space Telescope’s greatest discoveries
Stellar nursery in the Carina Nebula recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)).

Hubble’s infrared detectors penetrated giant, turbulent clouds of gas and dust into the Carina Nebula, where tens of thousands of stars are born. The birth of a star is a violent process, producing a lot of ultraviolet radiation.

Black holes everywhere

The telescope provided decisive evidence that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, with mass corresponding to millions or billions of stars. Interestingly, the size of the black hole corresponds to the size of the galaxy: the larger the galaxy, the larger the black hole. Perhaps this is evidence that the black hole grows with the galaxy, devouring part of the galactic mass.

The age of the Universe

If we now know that the Universe is about 13.7 billion years old, it is thanks to Hubble. To reach this conclusion, scientists measured the brightness of Cepheid stars, which pulse in predetermined cycles, and this can be used to measure distances in the Universe.

Study of Jupiter

The Hubble Space Telescope allowed many discoveries about other planets, including Jupiter. One of the most important events was the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, in 1994, crucial for the study of the dynamics of the collision of a comet with the planet. In 2009, an asteroid collided with Jupiter, leaving a mark the size of the Pacific Ocean on its surface.

Image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Credit: NASA / Hubble Space Telescope).

Hubble also monitors the Great Red Spot, a storm about the size of Earth that has been constantly visible since the 1800s. In addition, Hubble has provided the greatest evidence that there may be salt water on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons and the largest of the Solar System, when detecting the activities in the auroras of the satellites.

And finally, the telescope detected changes in the atmosphere of Europa, another Jupiter moon, possibly caused by gases ejecting from the satellite, which led scientists to conclude that there may be an ocean below its surface.

Images, a lot of images

For the general public and astronomy lovers, Hubble constantly provides real gifts: beautiful images of stars, galaxies and planets, like the ones you can see below.

Saturn's auroras.
Saturn’s auroras. (Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Clarke (Boston University), and Z. Levay (STScI)).
 V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), a red star in the constellation Monoceros.
V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), a star in the constellation Monoceros. (Credit: NASA / Hubble Space Telescope).
Cartwheel Galaxy
Cartwheel Galaxy. (Credit: NASA / Hubble Space Telescope, ESA).
Antennae Galaxies
Antennae Galaxies. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team).
Messier 64, also known as the Black Eye Galaxy.
Messier 64, also known as the Black Eye Galaxy. (Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team).
Cat's Eye Nebula
Cat’s Eye Nebula. (Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team).
Uranus, its rings and some of its satellites
Uranus, its rings and some of its satellites. (Credit: Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), NASA and ESA).

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