Think You Know Hubble? Top 10 Things You Don't Know

When the U.S. Postal Service released a special 41-cent for Edwin Hubble in 2008, they called him a "pioneer of the distant stars."

But Hubble was close to choosing another path for himself. Born in Missouri in 1889, Hubble studied math and astronomy as an undergrad but then went on to study law as one of the first Rhode Scholars at Oxford University.

He reportedly moved to Kentucky to practice law. But the pull of the cosmos was too great. Hubble spent most of his career at California's Mt. Wilson observatory.

He is credited with many discoveries but most notably for observing that the farther apart galaxies are from each other, the faster they move away from each other. Based on this, Hubble concluded that the universe expands uniformly.

When the Hubble Space Telescope launched, one of its goals was to figure out this expansion rate, called the Hubble Constant.

Hubble Images as Works of Art

5. Hubble images are held from the public for one year.

In its 19-year-career, Hubble has made about 880,000 observations and has released about 570,000 images of the universe.

But before any of those images are shown to the public, they are held in a proprietary waiting period. For one year, the scientist (or scientists) involved in the project that took the image have the exclusive opportunity to review the data.

Scientists can elect to forego the waiting period but, the research world being as competitive as it is, that rarely happens.

6. Hubble's masterpieces have debuted at the museum.

Not only has Hubble penetrated Hollywood, it has also found its way into the rarefied world of the fine arts.

Science aside, many of Hubble's images are astoundingly beautiful. The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore displayed a number of Hubble's iconic images last year in the exhibit "Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope."

More than 20 images were on display at the museum.

"It is really gratifying to see these pictures, constructed from Hubble's science data, among the beautiful, classical art in the Walters Art Museum," Zoltan Levay, senior image processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said at the time. "I hope visitors can enjoy the images as photographs of the cosmic landscapes, but also as artistic abstractions from nature."

7. It has more than 3 billion miles under its belt.

Every 96 minutes, Hubble makes one orbit around Earth. In its lifetime, it has circled Earth more than 100,000 times, traveling about 5 miles per second. In all, the space telescope has traveled more than 3 billion miles, which is about the distance from Earth to Pluto.

How Do Scientists Score Time with Hubble?

8. Scientists have to apply for QT with the HST.

Everyone wants a piece of the Hubble, but it only has 3,000 available hours each year. To divvy up the time, a panel of internationally renowned scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute reviews proposals submitted by teams of scientists around the world.

"The proposals are ranked according to, in their opinion, what is the most challenging, the most important, what science can be gained from these proposals," said Cheryl Gundy, the institute's deputy news manager. "The director of the institute makes the final decision, parceling out the Hubble's time."

Some teams may only get a couple of minutes with the telescope, but even a window of time that small is highly coveted.

9. As far as telescopes go, Hubble is only average-sized.

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