Hubble reaches another major milestone: ONE BILLION seconds in space 

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Hubble reaches another major milestone this month, as NASA revealed its iconic 31-year-old telescope spent its one billionth second in space. 

The space telescope was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay on April 25, 1990, sitting 340 miles above the surface of the Earth.

On January 1, 2022, Hubble marked its billionth second of operations, and in that time has produced some of the most iconic astrophotography images ever made. 

As well as sensational images, Hubble has provided groundbreaking scientific discoveries, including pinning down the age of the universe to 13.8 billion years.

In its first billion seconds, Hubble has seen five astronaut servicing missions to replace and repair components, and over 1.5 million scientific observations.

The space telescope was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay on April 25, 1990, sitting 340 miles above the surface of the Earth

The space telescope was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay on April 25, 1990, sitting 340 miles above the surface of the Earth

On January 1, 2022, Hubble marked its billionth second of operations, and in that time has produced some of the most iconic astrophotography images ever made

On January 1, 2022, Hubble marked its billionth second of operations, and in that time has produced some of the most iconic astrophotography images ever made 

HUBBLE’S ACTIVE INSTRUMENTS 

– Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)

Recovered November 7 

– Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) 

Recovered November 21 

– Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS)

 Recovered November 28

– Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) 

Recovered December 6

‘We can only imagine what discoveries the next one-billion seconds will bring,’ NASA wrote in celebration of the important milestone.

Hubble is expected to continue operating for several more years, despite a number of recent scares, that saw all or part of the observatory go offline.

NASA wrote that it could only image what the next generation of space observatories, including the recently launches James Webb, will uncover.

‘[The] James Webb Space Telescope and the future Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will build upon Hubble’s discoveries and work together with Hubble to expand our understanding of the universe,’ the US agency wrote.

Hubble was a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), experiencing regular visits from astronauts between 1993 and 2009.

Observations using the telescope have resulted in thousands of scientific papers, including new revelations about the origins of the universe.

Other discoveries include the rate the universe is expanding, the discovery of a fifth moon around Pluto and discovery that supermassive black holes sit at the heart of most major galaxies.  

It orbits Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude, slightly higher than the International Space Station (ISS).

The telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 and discovered that the universe is expanding, as well as the rate at which it is doing so.

The Hubble recently marked its 31st anniversary in space, doing so with an image of a giant star that is ‘on the edge of destruction’. 

It cost $4.7 billion (£3.4 billion) to build and has a 7ft 10in mirror which can observe in ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared. 

Hubble images of a giant star, named AG Carinae, waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction

Hubble images of a giant star, named AG Carinae, waging a tug-of-war between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction

Hubble was a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), experiencing regular visits from astronauts between 1993 and 2009

Hubble was a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), experiencing regular visits from astronauts between 1993 and 2009 

MAJOR DISCOVERIES MADE USING HUBBLE

The Hubble space telescope launched for low Earth orbit in 1990 and has been used to change our understanding of the universe.

  • Captured images of the debris left behind by comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 after it collided with Jupiter. 
  • Hubble provided the first conclusive evidence of the existence of supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies after observing the galaxy M87. 
  • Measured the elements within the atmosphere of exoplanets, giving insight into worlds beyond our solar system. 
  • Hubble observations revealed the dwarf planet Eris is actually larger than Pluto, a year after it was demoted to dwarf planet status.
  • Captured images of distant galaxies from when the universe was less than a tenth of its current age. 
  • Helped expand our understanding of how planets formed through observations of proto-planetary discs in distant systems.

The first of its observations was the planet Jupiter in March 1991, a subject it came back to regularly, including tracking its great red spot.

Hubble also provided the first conclusive evidence of the existence of supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies after observing the galaxy M87 in 1993. 

Other major discoveries included the ‘Pillars of Creation’, one of the most iconic images in astronomy, taken in 1995 and showing the violent tendrils of gas and dust in a stellar nursery.  

Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus. 

Hubble has been described as the most important telescope since the first used by Galileo to view Jupiter’s moons and would be a ‘huge loss’ to astronomy if it stops working. 

Affelia Wibisono, from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, said Hubble was one of the most successful space missions ever launched.

 ‘It has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe – from discovering new moons around Pluto, to taking the first visual image of a planet orbiting a star that is not the Sun,’ the PhD student said.

It has also helped us make a 3D map of dark matter, and discover that every galaxy has a black hole at its heart. 

‘Hubble has made astronomers rewrite textbooks. ‘Without the Hubble Space Telescope, it would be much more difficult for me to do my work in studying Jupiter’s northern and southern lights,’ Wibisono added.

Jupiter has also been subject to study from Hubble, including observation of the great red spot

Jupiter has also been subject to study from Hubble, including observation of the great red spot

Hubble has been described as the most important telescope since the first used by Galileo to view Jupiter's moons and would be a'huge loss' to astronomy if it stops working

Hubble has been described as the most important telescope since the first used by Galileo to view Jupiter’s moons and would be a ‘huge loss’ to astronomy if it stops working 

Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused the Queen’s head on a coin 200 miles (320km) away. 

Boris Gaensicke, University of Warwick professor, said Hubble has been one of the most important instruments astronomers have ever used. 

‘It has a range of instruments, so you can think of it as a toolbox, and astronomers keep developing better ways to use the tools in that box, for example, to study the composition of the atmospheres of planets hundreds of light years away. 

‘We didn’t even know those planets exist when Hubble was built, so this is a good illustration how a 30-year old facility keeps being at the absolute forefront of astronomy.’   

NASAs Hubble Space Telescope is still working and has made more than 1.5 million observations since its mission began in 1990

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.

He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so – now coined the Hubble constant. 

The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)

The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)

Hubble has made more than 1.5 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish some 18,000 scientific papers.

It circles the Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude.

Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head on a dime roughly 200 miles (320km) away.

The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time

The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time

Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.

Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope. 

Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same. 

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