What Makes the Hubble Space Telescope So Special

How Hubble captures breathtaking images we would otherwise never see.

— -- When the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit 25 years ago today, no one could have predicted the trove of new discoveries it would make about our cosmos.

NASA heralded the launch of Hubble on April 24, 1990, as "the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope."

Hubble's incredible reach -- made possible by the fact that its sight was not impaired by the Earth's atmosphere -- allowed astronomers to get closer looks at space phenomena like never before, watching stars and planets as they form, examining exoplanets and capturing the power of cosmic impacts.

Since its first day on the job, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations and its findings have been published in more than 12,800 scientific papers, according to NASA, making it one of the most successful scientific instruments ever built.

Whizzing around Earth at 17,000 mph, Hubble has racked up more than 3 billion miles in flight, according to NASA.

Its incredible resolution has allowed the telescope to look at areas as far as 13.4 billion light years away from Earth -- in essence, peering back into a time when our universe first emerged from the Big Bang. The telescope is so precise that it is equivalent to someone shining a laser beam on a dime from 200 miles away, according to NASA.