Discovering Our Universe: Hubble Turns 25

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company was selected by NASA in 1977 to design and build the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and provide systems integration. The HST was built in Space Systems’ Sunnyvale, California, facility and is still to this day the world’s premier orbiting astronomical observatory.

In celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary on orbit — occurring April 24 — we want to share some of our favorite Hubble images.   

Situated in low Earth orbit, high above the Earth’s atmosphere, Hubble has an unobstructed view of the universe – allowing observation of the most distant stars, galaxies and planets. Since its launch and deployment in April 1990, Hubble ushered in new era of astronomy and introduced the world to images and discoveries previously unimaginable.

Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations during its time on orbit. Here is a glimpse of some of Hubble’s iconic images.

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Taken in 1995, the “Pillars of Creation” is arguable one of the most famous images captured by Hubble. This observation revealed never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula. 

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This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.

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On February 24, 2009, Hubble took a photo of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. These rare moon transits only happen when the tilt of Saturn's ring plane is nearly "edge on" as seen from the Earth. This "ring plane crossing" occurs every 14 to 15 years. In 1995-96, Hubble witnessed the previous ring plane crossing, as well as many moon transits, and helped to discover several new moons of Saturn

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Hubble snaps a picture of an expanding halo of light around a distant star, named V838 Monocerotis, which is about 20,000 light years away from Earth. This halo effect, called a light echo, unveiled never-before-seen dust patterns when the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002

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Mystic Mountain,” as this image is known, was selected as Hubble's 20th anniversary image and shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.

Hubble was able to make these amazing observations through its incredible pointing accuracy, which is the equivalent of shining a laser beam on dime 200 miles away; and optical strength, which would make it possible to see a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from Maryland.  

Images: NASA

April 22, 2015