|A Front Row Seat to the Universe|
magine seeing stars and planets as if they were just outside your living room window. From this window seat to the universe, you could see the birth and death of stars and galaxies as they appeared billions of years ago. The Hubble Space Telescope is your window seat to the universe. Hubble has provided us with front row seats to fragments of a comet slamming into Jupiter and stars being born in huge craggy towers of cold dark gas.
Deployed April 25, 1990 from the space shuttle Discovery, Hubble is one of the largest and most complex satellites ever built. Hubbles deployment culminated more than 20 years of research by NASA and other scientists. The telescope is named for American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who first discovered that countless island cities of stars and galaxies dwell far beyond our Milky Way.
But NASA didnt launch the telescope into space to get closer to the stars. Hubble barely skims the Earths atmosphere, orbiting just 380 miles above our planet. The nearest star, our sun, is 258,000 times farther away.
Hubble is in space because it can see the universe more clearly than we can from Earth. Looking at the heavens through a ground-based telescope is like trying to identify someone at poolside from the bottom of a swimming pool. Our vision is blurred. Thats because we live at the bottom of the Earths atmosphere, an ocean of air that smears and scatters starlight. Thats why stars twinkle.
Scientists have known for several years that our atmosphere obscures and distorts light. The scientists who pioneered rocketry decades ago concluded that the best view of the universe is from above the Earths atmosphere.
With Hubble, astronomers are getting a clearer picture of the universe. The telescopes stunning photos are showing the world about the wonders of space. Many of the worlds foremost astronomers are using Hubble to probe the horizons of space and time. Designed to last 15 years, Hubble is providing intriguing new clues to monster black holes, the birth of galaxies, and planetary systems around stars.
To provide astronomers with the latest Hubble data, the Earth-circling observatory must be maintained by hundreds of scientists, engineers, and computer programmers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.
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