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Paparazzo to the Stars

044websmallOn this day in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope started sending images from space. The first image was of a cluster 1,350 light years from Earth, NGC 3532, in the Carina constellation.

197lightwebsmallOver the past 20 years, Hubble has been sending images of ever greater value thanks to five servicing missions by Space Shuttle astronauts. Among its countless achievements are improved estimates of the age of the universe, new data on the rate at which the universe is expanding, data on galaxies the way they were billions of years ago and on the prevalence of black holes at the center of nearby galaxies, and evidence of extrasolar planets. 

Some figures: Hubble orbits around the Earth at an altitude of 570 km and speed of 28,000 km/hr. It weighs 11,000 kg, measures 13 m x 4 m diameter, and its primary mirror has a diameter of 2.4 m. It ‘sees’ wavelengths in the ultraviolet to infrared range.  Energy consumption is 2,800 watts, supplied by two solar panels. Each week, Hubble generates 120 Gb of data, which has been equated to 1,100 meters of shelves of books. As of last year, over 3,700 papers by 5,200 different authors had been based on Hubble data (detailed publication figures here).

From the Libraries' collections:

The universe in a mirror: the saga of the Hubble Telescope and the visionaries who built it. Robert Zimmerman. Princeton, N.J.; Woodstock: Princeton University Press, c2008.

Chasing Hubble's shadows: the search for galaxies at the edge of time. Jeff Kanipe. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.


Hubble space telescope: new views of the universe, by Mark Voit. New York: H.N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the Space Telescope Science Institute, c2000.

New cosmic horizons: space astronomy from the V2 to the Hubble Space Telescope. David Leverington. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Seen/unseen: art, science, and intuition from Leonardo to the Hubble telescope. Martin Kemp. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

An acre of glass: a history and forecast of the telescope. J.B. Zirker. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

The National Air and Space Museum's IMAX theater is currently showing the film Hubble 3D. Check their website for showtimes and trailer.

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