Happy Birthday Hubble

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of what might just be the coolest camera ever built, and certainly the coldest. Happy birthday to the Hubble Space Telescope, in the chilly reaches beyond our atmosphere. It’s been a source of amazing images of deep space for over two decades, and each sight is as breathtaking as the last. Let’s take a moment to reflect on this reflector, from a troubled start to years of wonder, and even glimpse at what the future holds.

Named after American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble (1889–1953), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) wasn’t the first of its kind. This idea was suggested as early as 1923, and took constant pressure from Dr. Lyman Spitzer, before mission started being outlined in 1965.

After years of delays, rising costs and having to invent new equipment to build the equipment that HST would carry, a launch date was finally set for October 1986. Then, in the January of that year, the Challenger space shuttle suffered a catastrophic joint failure, causing the death of all seven astronauts aboard. The shuttle fleet was grounded, and all launches cancelled.

Eventually, after more than 20 years, on April 24th 1990 the STS-31 shuttle mission launched from Kennedy Space centre in Florida. Aboard it, at last, flew the The Hubble Space Telescope.

What does 25 years and $2.5bn get you?

By now you’re probably wondering if all the time and trouble was worth it. I mean, what does 25 years and $2.5bn get you? How about:

  • Set the estimated age of the universe at 13-14bn years

  • Found 3000 galaxies from the smallest, darkest corner of the night sky

  • Which altogether means about 500,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe

  • And that since the big bang, rather than slowing down, the universe appears to be accelerating outwards

  • Identified that black holes make up the core of pretty much every galaxy

  • Recorded the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter

And it’s not even done exploring yet!
At 25 years old HST is no spring chicken in terms of technology, which is why construction is already underway for a new generation, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will look at oldest and furthest bodies in the universe.

Until such a day as it’s called back home to Earth, HST will be up above with a careful eye watching, exploring and discovering -Happy birthday Hubble!