Did you know the Hubble Telescope is a “time machine”, allowing us to see the universe as it was billions of years ago? Here’s why it is one of the most important creations in human history.

The Hubble Telescope has been serving humanity since the 1990. That’s a LONG time ago in the scope of where our technology was 25 years ago.

1990 was just one year after Tim Berners-Lee invented the worldwide web and only a handful of the earliest programmers were on that first, almost useless, version of the web. Email and jpeg’s would not come along for 3 years, yet we had launched a telescope into orbit around the Earth that was so powerful it could send us images of the farthest reaches of our galaxy and beyond.

The Hubble Telescope opened an extraordinary window for us to start understanding the entire universe.

Why should we care? Many scientists think that the Hubble Telescope is one of a handful of the most important human inventions for the perspectives it has allowed us to expand in countless directions. Have you seen some of the images from the telescope?

And how much do any of us really know about this marvel?

We’re hearing bits and pieces of information about newsworthy moments in the Hubble’s explorations, but they don’t not really add up to knowing much about it? I didn’t even have a clue how big the Hubble Telescope was. For all I knew, it could be the size of a breadbox or a football field.

Here’s a nice short NASA video that gives us the story of how the Hubble Telescope almost never existed and why having a telescope in space makes such a big difference to humanity: (Notice the age of the scientists who are interviewed. They were in their youthful prime when they worked to create Hubble! How time flies.)

Always curious, we try to get beyond the “Wow!” Here on EWC and explore the “Why?”

So I was wondering how this giant telescope actually works. It’s a fairly basic mirror system that repeatedly refines and concentrates the faint light and information it receives, by reflecting images onto ever smaller mirrors that condense the light to a size we can perceive with great detail. After looking at the following diagram carefully, one can see it’s not that complex:

 

Image: Diagram of How the Hubble telescope works

Source: Hubble Site

The magic and complexity is in the “Instruments” portion of the telescope. Apparently, that section was made to be replaced and upgraded periodically, and that is the secret to why the telescope is still serving us so well after 25 years. The “deep-field” images actually improved over the years because space shuttle astronauts were able to upgrade the observatory in some famous spacewalks.

Then I asked myself, “how do the images become beautiful photographs on my computer screen?” Here’s a great graphic that helped me understand the process.

 

 

How is Hubble a Time Machine?

The telescope now has about a million observations under its belt. Each and every one advancing our understanding of our place in the universe. That’s impressive. The next short video, entitled “The Incredible Time Machine”, shows us how Hubble has been able to give us a glimpse of a cosmos in its formative years. This one is like getting a really fun cosmology course in 4 minutes. Take a look…

 

Want to know even more about The Hubble project? They have an absolutely amazing website!  Click here and browse around the whole site for a few minutes to appreciate what we are seeing from our universe. How cool is that!?

Bonus!

Here’s a great video made by NASA that tells us about the future of Hubble! In 16 minutes, you will know more about Hubble and the Universe than 95% of people on the planet.

Thanks for joining our community of curious, smart, open and hopeful people from 190 countries. See you tomorrow at noon with yet another article – on anything under the sun –  that proves this is still an amazing world!

This video is made by a NASA scientist who is a “real” person, not plastic and polished. Astrophysicist Frank Summers takes viewers on an in-depth tour of the latest Hubble discoveries. It’s like having your favorite Uncle Frank tell you everything you need to know about the wonder of the future in this science. Enjoy!

 

Stay open, curious, and hopeful!

~Dr. Lynda

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Notes:

  1. Hubble Space Telescope. “Hubble: The Beginning.” YouTube. Hubble Space Telescope, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 June 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PwJIeiZ_vI>.
  2. Hubble Space Telescope. “The Original Hubble.” YouTube. Hubble Space Telescope, 23 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 June 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5uZyW9-wms>.
  3. Hubble Space Telescope. “The Future of Space Astronomy: Hubble’s Universe Unfiltered.” YouTube. Hubble Space Telescope, 12 June 2013. Web. 10 June 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs_nsQn7fno>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world.