Happy 20th Birthday Hubble Telescope

Named after the astronomy Edwin Hubble, this long overdue space-based telescope was put into orbit…and it didn’t work courtesy of a lens ground to the wrong specification (the media probably got this wrong, effective telescopes after Newton use mirrors because chromatic aberration rendered lenses impractical). How it served as fodder for late-night comedy for a while.

I was still in college and more involved with my girlfriend Carrie at the time to recall many details. Heck, I was surprised it was finally launched because I remember it being on the agenda since the long-delayed space shuttle Columbia finally got going in 1981. I think Hubble was scheduled for 1987 but the Challenger accident grounded everything for a while. ABC didn’t go into great detail, the focus was more on Americans returning to space for the first time since the Ford Administration.

NASA got it repaired in 1993 and then lots of great stuff was captured through it. I remember NPR doing a piece saying Hubble had proposed the universe to be around 20 billion years old; this seems to coincide with Burbidge. With the successful operation of the telescope named after him, cosmological theories could be fine tuned to see if he was right. Hubble turned out to be off by five billion then and with COBE more like six and change (currently, it’s around 13-14 billion).

The Guardian has an OK piece they published a couple weeks ago here. It’s what reminded me to plug the anniversary.

As expected, Dr. Plait has a more informative and accurate series here. Click on the “next” link under the picture to proceed. His is excellent because Dr. Plait has actually worked with the telescope in his career.

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