Sunday, June 22, 2008
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a telescope in orbit around the Earth, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble. Its position outside the Earth's atmosphere provides significant advantages over ground-based telescopes — images are not blurred by the atmosphere, there is no background from light scattered by the air, and the Hubble can observe ultra-violet light that is normally absorbed by the ozone layer in observations made from Earth. Since its launch in 1990, it has become one of the most important instruments in the history of astronomy. With it, astronomers have made many observations leading to breakthroughs in astrophysics. Hubble's Ultra Deep Field is the most sensitive astronomical optical image ever taken.
From its original conception in 1946 until its launch, the project to build a space telescope was beset by delays and budget problems. Immediately after its 1990 launch, it was found that the main mirror suffered from spherical aberration, severely compromising the telescope's capabilities. However, after a servicing mission in 1993, the telescope was restored to its intended quality and became a vital research tool as well as a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is part of NASA's Great Observatories series, with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Hubble is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.
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