NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope: What did Hubble see on your birthday?

Hubble explores the universe round the clock and observe stars, galaxies, and planets near and far.

The Hubble telescope was named after the famous astronomer Edwin Hubble. It is a sizable space-based observatory that has revamped astronomy since it was launched and deployed by the Discovery space shuttle in 1990. Moving high above the rain, clouds, atmospheric distortions, and light pollution, Hubble gives us a never-before-seen view of the universe. Scientists have always relied on Hubble to observe stars, galaxies, and planets near and far. This telescope explores the universe round the clock. It keeps some fascinating cosmic wonders on each day of the year, including on people’s birthdays. Want to know what image Hubble broadcasted on your birthday? Read on to find out.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope: Background

The capabilities of this legendary telescope have only grown in its 30 years of operation. New and cutting-edge scientific instruments have been added to Hubble spread over 5 astronaut servicing missions. These missions have significantly extended the telescope’s lifetime by replacing and upgrading ageing parts. Telescopes depend on a particular range of light that they can detect. Hubble’s range extends from ultraviolet light through visible light into near-infrared light. This awe-inspiring range has allowed Hubble to give us otherworldly images of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects, which have raised inspiration in people around the world.

Exploring the Extraordinary Hubble Space Telescope

Throughout its illustrious lifetime, Hubble has made more than 1.5 million observations. A staggering 19000 peer-reviewed science papers have been published on its discoveries, and every astronomy textbook includes contributions from the telescope. The telescope captures interstellar objects as they hurtle through our vast solar system. It has also watched the collision between Jupiter and a comet and discovered moons orbiting Pluto.

Additionally, the Hubble Space Telescope has chanced upon dusty disks and stellar nurseries along the breadth of the Milky Way, which might one day transform into fully-fledged planetary systems. Through Hubble, we have been able to explore our universe’s distant past, to places located 13.4 billion light years from Earth. It has captured galaxies merging and probed the supermassive black holes lurking in their depths, thus helping us understand the wonder that is our universe. Hubble’s observations are believed to have expanded our understanding of the universe in its three decades of operation.

How to use the NASA tool to find out what Hubble saw on your birthday

If you want to use the NASA tool to find out what Hubble saw on your birthday, here’s what you need to do:

  • Visit the NASA website and navigate to the section where they ask you to input some information.
  • From the drop-down menus, select the month and date of birth.
  • Click on Submit
  • Once you do, you should get some information on your screen. For instance, if we input February 27, 2002, the following information comes on screen –

On February 27, 2002

Little Ghost Nebula

“The Little Ghost Nebula is a small, ghostly cloud surrounding a dying star. It is found in the constellation Ophiuchus between 2,000 and 5,000 light-years away.”

This means that on the 27th of February 2002, Hubble observed the Little Ghost Nebula

NGC 6369 is a celestial nebula in the Ophiuchus constellation, discovered by William Herschel. The nebula itself is round and planet-shaped and quite faint. It has a white part called the dwarf, which emits high-energy radiation, which in turn causes the surrounding nebula to emit light. The central ring of the nebula is around a light-year across. It emits a glow from ionized oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms colored blue, green, and red, respectively.

Hubble Space Telescope: 10 Interesting Facts

  1. The history of this fascinating telescope dates back to the 1940s. In 1946, a scientist called Lyman Spitzer wrote a paper elucidating the merits of learning astronomy from space. He broached the idea of a Large Space Telescope. The first batch started working on this Large Space Telescope sometime in 1974.
  2. Orbiting earth about 340 miles/547 kilometers above its surface, Hubble travels at a jaw-dropping speed of 17,500 miles/27,300 kilometers per hour as it orbits the earth. It takes around 95 minutes for the space telescope to complete one round trip around Earth. Interestingly, the telescope has orbited Earth a little over 175,200 times in its 3 decades of operation.
  3. The farthest star that this space telescope has picked up is called Icarus, located at a staggering 5 billion light years away from planet earth. The most distant galaxy that Hubble has observed is the galaxy MACS0647-JD, which happens to be 13.3 billion light years away from our planet.
  4. Hubble clicks images in greyscale. The colours we see in Hubble images denote chemical elements and other features not visible to the naked eye. Interestingly, Hubble cannot take photos of Earth because the camera exposure time isn’t compatible with the orbiting speed. It took very little time for Hubble to send back seminal images. For instance, in 1991, it released its first true-colour image of Jupiter.
  5. The Hubble Space Telescope absorbs energy from the sun. For this, it uses two 25-foot solar panels. However, the telescope uses much less power than you think. It averages around 2100 watts of power usage. To put things into perspective, a hair dryer utilises around 1800 watts.
  6. Since its launch, the Hubble Space Telescope has been the subject of 5 service missions. The last service mission was carried out when the space shuttle Atlantis STS-125 was launched. Each servicing mission sees some parts upgraded or changed, allowing the telescope to function more efficiently and give us better images. To prolong the telescope’s life, new parts like batteries and a gyroscope, a new science computer, a refurbished Fine Guidance Sensor, and new insulation on three electronic bays were installed during the five spacewalks. A particular device was installed on the telescope’s base, so eventually, when it is decommissioned, de-orbiting won’t be an issue.
  7. To put things in an earthly perspective, the Hubble Space Telescope has the dimensions of a larger-than-average school bus.
  8. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks specific wavelengths, thus blurring the Earth telescope’s images. This is why Hubble orbits way beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, so you get a much clearer picture than you would use telescopes on Earth.
  9. Each winged telescope array has solar cells absorbing the appropriate energy. A lot of that power is reserved for the instances when Hubble drops under the Earth’s shadow in orbit.
  10. And finally, any astronomer anywhere in the world can request to use the Hubble Space Telescope for a certain period.
Thus, the Hubble Space Telescope remains one of the marvels of modern science, allowing us to get up close and personal with the universe. Thankfully, a dedicated team of astronauts carries out regular maintenance to ensure the telescope keeps giving us stunning images for years to come.