Look up into the night sky and you may be wowed by the sweeping arm of the milky way or a shooting star but in all that inky blackness, dappled by pinpoints of light, there are remarkably beautiful events unfolding beyond our sights! And we get to see them, all thanks to an amazing piece of human innovation.

Orbiting our planet, outside of the cocoon of our atmosphere, is an object that can peer, unadulterated, out into the depths of space, capturing the light from billions of radiant stars, galaxies to give us never before seen images of our universe. Swirling clouds of gas, massive stars at the beginning and end of their lives, cosmic collisions of galaxies, we’ve seen them all!

Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been helping us get a clearer picture of the great unknown. But the real wonder is in how!

Image: On 1-2 April Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 captured Arp 274 (also known as NGC 5679). Arp 274 is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances.

Source: NASA
On 1-2 April Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 captured Arp 274 (also known as NGC 5679). Arp 274 is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances.

How does Hubble see so well?

On a good night, tucked inside our atmosphere, we can peer up into the dark night sky and see about 6,000 stars.  But over the last 30 years, we’ve been able to look up and know for certain that there’s so much more happening outside of our planet, beyond what we can see!

Thanks to Hubble’s keen eye and special abilities, we everyday people and career scientists have been able to expand our universe to make new discoveries, and change the very way we view the night sky.

Image: These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula. The aptly named Pillars of Creation, featured in this stunning Hubble image, are part of an active star-forming region within the nebula and hide newborn stars in their wispy columns.

Source: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas sit at the heart of M16, or the Eagle Nebula. The aptly named Pillars of Creation, featured in this stunning Hubble image, are part of an active star-forming region within the nebula and hide newborn stars in their wispy columns.

But where do all of these colors come from? Does Hubble really see space like that?

Come along with us on a journey through Hubble’s eyes — er…lenses — as we celebrate 30 years of culture-shifting images and discoveries that have made space seem so much closer and more marvelous than our ancestors could have ever dreamed!

It’s Okay To Be Smart leads the way! (Make sure you grab your headphones and put this video on full screen. Trust me.)

If you’re a science nerd like me, or just curious about the world around you, It’s Okay To Be Smart is a celebration of all things science and a wonderful place to let your curiosity run wild! Go check them out!

Beauty beyond imagination.

Even now, there’s something more miraculous about looking up into space after seeing the images that come back from the Hubble Telescope. Wondrous beauty isn’t just limited to our planet, it is everywhere! Even in the seemingly deep and dark corners, out of our eyesight.

I have a few videos to share with you that I, again, urge you to turn up the volume for and immerse yourself in.

The first is to a corner of the universe dubbed the “Cosmic Reef”. In this 3D rendering of two beautiful nebulas, we get to travel through an awe-inspiring view of space. Take a look…

If you want to learn more about the Cosmic Reef, check out this video from NASA!

Now, off to the Orion Nebula!

The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest and most visible nebulae in the night sky. What appears to us as a bright spot like any other is actually a beautiful swirling cloud of gas and dust! There, in that cradle, new stars are beginning their lives.

Yet again, Hubble has changed the way we look at this pinprick of light, revealing the incredible colors and complexity of this star nursery. (Truthfully, this three minutes was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes, and I hope that it has the same awe-inspiring effect on you, too.)

If you want to see more beautiful flythroughs and otherworldly images, go check out the Hubble Space Telescope YouTube channel. It’s the most relaxing way to spend a few minutes (or hours).

As our understanding of the universe expands, so do we.

For generations, there have been people itching to look out just beyond the horizon. Our species has thrived because we wanted to see what was just past our view.

Telescopes, like Hubble, allow us to do this in an entirely different environment, beyond our little rock here in space. Now, we see how we are a part of something far vaster and much much greater than we ever could have imagined from our own view. Hubble’s images make the beauty and vastness of the universe visible to us all.

Imagine if the ancient navigators, storytellers, and theologians who took inspiration from the stars could see the images from space that we get to see today. What would they say if they could experience the cosmos that their livelihoods depended on, in the way we can with Hubble?.

If you want to learn how the Hubble Deep Field Image radically shifted the way the average person saw the night sky, I highly suggest you check out our article about it! In just a few short decades, this wonder of science and technology has transformed our relationship to space.

7 minutes

Peering into Space: The Image that Changed Everything

Have you heard of the Hubble Deep Field Image? Let us introduce you to the image that changed the way we look at space and possibility!

Read More

Looking at those images, in all of their beauty, it’s important to remember something.

That space dust, out there, forming stars, is the same combination of elements and energy that created us here on Earth. We aren’t so different from that space dust (in fact we may have some laying around our own homes). Though the vastness of space seems so distant from us, we are an extension of those beautiful images from Hubble.

And hey, there’s nothing more personal to us than our birthday, right? Well, NASA has created a wonderful site where you can see what images Hubble has captured on your birthday in the last 30 years! Here’s mine!

Image: Star V838 Monocerotis In 2002, a dim star suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. This image of V838 Monocerotis captures its "light echo."

Source: NASA
Star V838 Monocerotis In 2002, a dim star suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. This image of V838 Monocerotis captures its “light echo.”

I hope you look up at the night sky with more wonder. Perhaps, even see a little more beauty around you after reading this article. We really do live in an amazing world–well, an amazing universe– and it’s important we take the time to celebrate all of that awe!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. It’s Okay To Be Smart. “Fly Through a Nebula 163,000 Light Years Away (Celebrating 30 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope).” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCrs-HeXrug&feature=emb_title. Accessed 14 May 2020.
  2. Hubble Space Telescope. “Cosmic Reef: NGC 2014 & NGC 2020.” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qO6SG1HzyI. Accessed 14 May 2020.
  3. Hubble Space Telescope. “Flight Through the Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared Light [Ultra HD].” YouTube, 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=07dve0EnUX8&feature=emb_title. Accessed 14 May 2020.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV