The Hubble Space Telescope has literally transformed the way scientists view the universe. For over 20 years, this incredible technology has been orbiting the Earth in its quest to prove or disprove astronomical theories, uncover heretofore unknown worlds, solve space mysteries, search for answers to a plethora of scientific questions, and, in general, expand our knowledge of the world as we know it.
The Hubble telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, manages the telescope and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSSci) in Baltimore, MD, conducts Hubble science operations.
About the size of a bus, the telescope travels in a path above our atmosphere allowing it a view of the universe that far surpasses what can be observed from ground-based telescopes. That is because the atmosphere is not there to cause blockage or distortion.
Launched in 1990 and operated by a ground crew on Earth, this amazing optical device orbits about 350 miles above the Earth’s surface every 97 minutes.Â It continually searches for and investigates everything from black holes to planets in our solar system, to exoplanets (planets that do not revolve around the sun and are thus outside of our solar system) to stars, comets, distant galaxies, supernovae, and anything else of interest to scientists.
So far, Hubble has helped determine the age of the universe (13 to 14 billion years), the identity of quasars, and the existence of dark energy – to name only a few of its great accomplishments.
Hubble’s long-lasting missions have beamed hundreds of thousands of images back to Earth, shedding light on some of the great mysteries of astronomy.
In fact, using data derived from the Hubble telescope, an incredible number of scientific articles, more than 10,000, have been published. Following are some of the more recent discoveries that can be attributed to the Hubble telescope.
Comet ISON – Comet of the Century?
About 10,000 years ago, a comet named ISON, began its incredible journey toward the inner solar system at a steady rate of 48,000 miles per hour. Discovered only about a year ago by Russian astronomers, ISON sports a skyrocket-looking tail and a stream of gas and dust during its long journey. Perhaps surprisingly, rather than bringing an explosion of burning fireworks, the comet is quite icy. That accounts for the gaseous stream that emanates from ISON. It is a result of the cold comet meeting the heat from the sun.
Will Comet ISON grow to be one that can be seen with the naked eye? Will it shine brighter than our moon? At this point, no one knows. Comets are extremely unpredictable and ISON will only be visible again later in the year when it is expected to pass closer to the sun than the Earth is.
Diary of a New Neptune Moon
The Hubble Telescope and an extra white dot combined to help astronomers make another important scientific discovery recently. It occurred while analyzing a host of Neptune photos that were taken by the telescope.
About 65,400 miles from Neptune, located between the orbits of the two moons of Neptune, known as Larissa and Proteus, the white dot translated to the discovery of a new Neptune moon. Making one revolution around Neptune every 23 hours, this discovery raises the number of known moons orbiting Neptune up to14.
Exoplanet HD 189733b
Relative to other objects in space, planets are quite small. So, finding them is quite difficult. Additionally, they can be a billion times dimmer than the stars they orbit around. Since planets in other solar systems (known as exoplanets) are nearly impossible to see directly, astronomers have had to come up with innovative ways to hunt these awesome objects in space. Only in the past couple decades has our technology and techniques been up to the task of finding extrasolar planets (planets that exist outside our solar system).
Recent data from the Hubble Space Telescope has helped determine that a planet orbiting a nearby star likely shares Earth’s deep-blue tones. This planet, known as HD189733b, circles a star some 63 light-years away, about 372 billion miles.
This discovery goes on record as the first time that Hubble has determined the true color of a planet orbiting another star. The planet’s clouds are likely blue, based on spectroscopic data from the telescope, according to the international team of astronomers. The Jupiter size planet is about 13% larger than the biggest planet in our solar system and orbits very close to its star.
Super Supernova – Oldest and Farthest to Date
As a result of a three-year astronomical project that began in 2010, Hubble was able to discover the most distant Type 1a (one a) supernova observed so far. The stellar explosion occurred over 10 billion years ago, breaking the record in place by nearly a billion years. (A supernova is the explosive death of a star, which emits a dramatic burst of light).
This supernova type 1a, named Sn Wilson in honor of the 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, is prized because it provides a consistent level of brightness that can be used to measure the expansion of space.
Although SN Wilson is only four percent more distant than the previous record holder, it pushes roughly 350 million light years farther back in time.
Possible Planet Forming 7.5 Billion Miles from its Star
As a result, it appears that astronomers using Hubble may have discovered a new exoplanet that is incredibly far away from its parent star. The exoplanet seems to be forming some 7.5 billion miles away from the red dwarf star TW Hydraw, located in the Hydra constellation.
Particularly interesting is the fact that the distance from the planet to the star would be almost double the distance from our sun to the dwarf planet Pluto. This is distinctive because it would make this planet the furthest from its star of any scientists have discovered so far. The system in question is 176 light-years from Earth and the suspected exoplanet is estimated to be between six and 28 times the mass of our blue planet.
For the next several years, Hubble will continue to lead the way in astronomical research in an effort to satisfy our curiosity about the worlds within and beyond our solar system. In only a few years, with a target date of 2018, it will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, a device that will have even greater capabilities to pursue and discover the mysteries that lie in space.Jan Goldberg
Â§112.18. Science, Grade 6
(b)Â Â Knowledge and skills.
(11)Â Â Earth and space. The student understands the organization of our solar system and the relationships among the various bodies that comprise it. The student is expected to:
(A)Â Â describe the physical properties, locations, and movements of the Sun, planets, Galilean moons, meteors, asteroids, and comets;
(c)Â Â Knowledge and skills.
(4)Â Â Science concepts. The student recognizes the importance and uses of astronomy in civilization.
(B)Â Â research and describe the contributions of scientists to our changing understanding of astronomy, including Ptolemy, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hubble, and the contribution of women astronomers, including Maria Mitchell and Henrietta Swan Leavitt;
NS.5-8.5 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Abilities of technological design
Understandings about science and technology
NS.9-12.4 EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE
Origin and evolution of the earth system
Origin and evolution of the universe
The Best of Hubble Telescope – Slideshow
Deep-Space Photos: Hubble’s Greatest Hits – Photo Essays – TIME
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 1 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 2 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 3 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 4 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 5 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 6 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 7 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 8 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 9 – Part 1 – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope – Chapter 9 - Part 2– Educational Video
Video: Mission Update: Hubble Telescope – Educational Video
Video: Hubble Space Telescope Images from Deep Inside the Universe – Educational Video
Educational Hubble Discovers the Most Distant Supernova Ever
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