NASA named the Hubble Space Telescope after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953). It was deployed from the space shuttle Discovery during STS-31 on April 25, 1990. Over the past 20 years, the scientific data and images amassed by Hubble have led to major breakthroughs in the field of astrophysics.
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Proposing the Telescope
Lyman Spitzer, a professor at Yale University, envisioned the first space telescope. In 1946, he wrote a paper titled "Astronomical Advantages of an Extra-Terrestrial Observatory." Spitzer noted that Earth's atmosphere distorts light coming from stars, blocking X-rays and other high-energy light entirely. He lived long enough to watch the launch of Hubble from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The first images sent back by Hubble were blurry. Its original camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera, had a misshapen primer mirror. While taking a shower at a European hotel, an engineer was swivelling the showerhead when he had an idea for an optical instrument to correct Hubble's flawed vision. A new imager with built-in corrective optics replaced the camera in 1993.
Hubble sent back its first image of Star Cluster NGC 3532 on May 20, 1990. Since that time, it has taken over 570,000 images of 30,000 celestial objects. Hubble has collected enough data to fill 5,800 DVD movies. Hubble has made more than 110,000 trips around Earth, racking up 2.8 billion miles, equal to Neptune's average distance from the sun.
Thanks to Hubble, scientists have seen the early days of a young and developing universe. Hubble has captured images of ancient galaxies in varying stages of evolution. Hubble is nearing the end of its life. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled for launch in 2013.
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