Did you know… Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990. Astronomers using Hubble data have published more than 15,000 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built. Those papers have been cited in other papers 738,000 times. Hubble does not travel to stars, planets or galaxies. It takes pictures of them as it whirls around Earth at about 17,000 mph. Hubble has circled Earth and gone more than 4 billion miles along a circular low earth orbit currently about 340 miles in altitude.
Hubble has no thrusters. To change angles, it uses Newton’s third law by spinning its wheels in the opposite direction. It turns at about the speed of a minute hand on a clock, taking 15 minutes to turn 90 degrees. Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arcseconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam on President Roosevelt’s head on a dime about 200 miles away. Outside the haze of our atmosphere, it can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.
05 arcseconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo that are less than 10 feet apart from Washington, DC. Due to the combination of optics and sensitive detectors and with no atmosphere to interfere with the light reaching it, Hubble can spot a night light on the surface of the Moon from Earth. Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth. Hubble generates about 10 terabytes of new data per year. The total archive is currently over 150 TB in size. Hubble weighed about 24,000 pounds at launch but if returned to Earth today would weigh about 27,000 pounds ” on the order of two full-grown African elephants. Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across. It was so finely polished that if you scaled it to be the diameter of the Earth, you would not find a bump more than 6 inches tall. Hubble is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long ” the length of a large school bus.Hubble was built to be tuned up in orbit. But it wasn’t designed for the major overhaul NASA astronauts undertook during its fourth servicing mission, 3B, in March 2002. They delved into the telescope’s guts during long space walks and replaced parts that the original designers never thought they’d need to.Installation of a new power-control unit forced an unprecedented and nerve-wracking shutdown of the entire satellite”a move comparable to a surgeon stopping a patient’s heart during surgery, says Anne Kinney, NASA’s director of astronomy and physics. Astronaut John Grunsfeld raced to finish the task before the temperature of the switched-off telescope dropped far enough to damage it. Would it power back up? “When you run a computer for 12 years, you don’t know what kind of ghosts you have in the system,” Kinney says. When all systems reactivated as planned, the astronauts, as well as astronomers and mission controllers on the ground, breathed a collective sigh of relief. The rest of the mission went like clockwork, including installation of a new cooling system for Hubble’s near-infrared camera”NICMOS”useful for surveying dusty and cold areas of space, and installation of new solar panels and other science equipment.It was the most challenging service mission ever attempted in space, and its success elated astronomers. Chief among the wonders was the long-awaited ACS, or Advanced Camera for Surveys. It essentially made Hubble into a new telescope. “ACS has roughly ten times the discovery power of the previous camera,” says Mario Livio, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Translation: Hubble can now see twice as much with five times more light sensitivity.Tragically, this mission would be the last successful voyage for space shuttle Columbia. The disaster in February 2003 grounded Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, the three remaining shuttles, and will delay plans to bring Hubble a spectrograph and a new wide-field camera with ultraviolet and infrared capability.HUBBLE TELESCOPE’S MOM:NANCY ROMANWhen Nancy Grace Roman was 11 years old, her family was living in Reno. She was enthralled by the stars in the clear night skies and joined with friends in forming an astronomy club.It was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the cosmos.When she died on Wednesday in Germantown, Md., at 93, Dr. Roman was remembered as the mother of the Hubble.As NASA’s first chief of astronomy and the first woman in a leadership position at the space agency, Dr. Roman oversaw the early planning for the Hubble Space Telescope, which began orbiting Earth above its atmosphere in April 1990 to capture an unobstructed view of the universe.Placed into orbit from a manned Discovery shuttle and named for the pioneering American astronomer Edwin Hubble, it became the first large optical telescope in space. It has enhanced knowledge of distant galaxies as well as planets in our own solar system by transmitting images that would have been distorted if it were operating from within the Earth’s atmosphere.The idea for that kind of large optical telescope had circulated in the scientific world since the astronomer Lyman Spitzer Jr. envisioned it in 1946. But the concept met with skepticism over feasibility and cost. So the road toward getting the Hubble into the skies was a long one.It was Nancy in the old days before the internet and before Google and email and all that stuff who really helped to sell the Hubble Space Telescope, organize the astronomers, who eventually convinced Congress to fund it, Edward J. Weiler, Dr. Roman’s successor as chief scientist for the Hubble, told the Voice of America in 2011.In addition to coordinating the efforts of astronomers and engineers in their development of the Hubble, Dr. Roman wrote testimony for NASA representatives making the case for the Hubble before Congress and she pitched the project to the Bureau of the Budget.Dr. Roman also took part in development of the Cosmic Background Explorer, a satellite launched in 1989 that confirmed the Big Bang theory of the universe’s creation.She was a trailblazer for women at a time when science was considered a man’s world, and she became a longtime advocate for women in science.Editors’ PicksI still remember asking my high school guidance teacher for permission to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin, she recalled. She looked down her nose at me and sneered, What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?’ That was the sort of reception that I got most of the way, she told the Voice of America.Dr. Roman was born on May 16, 1925, in Nashville, the only child of Irwin Roman, a geophysicist, and Georgia (Smith) Roman, a music teacher. When she was three months old, the family left for Texas and Oklahoma, where her father advised oil companies on drilling possibilities.The family moved to Reno when her father was named western regional chief for federal research into geophysics.In Reno, of course, the skies were very clear, a beautiful place to observe the sky, and we lived on the edge of the city at the time, Dr. Roman recalled in a 1980 interview for the National Air and Space Museum. We had very few lights. I started an astronomy club with the girls in the neighborhood. We learned the constellations, read astronomy. I just never lost my interest in it.The family later moved to Baltimore, where she attended high school. She received a degree in astronomy from Swarthmore College in 1946, obtained a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1949, then worked at its Yerkes Observatory as a researcher.She later joined the United States Naval Research Laboratory, specializing in radio astronomy, and was recruited by NASA in 1959, a year after it was founded.The idea of coming in with an absolute clean slate to set up a program that I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn’t turn down, she recalled in her National Air and Space Museum interview.Sign up for Breaking NewsSign up to receive an email from The New York Times as soon as important news breaks around the world.SIGN UPThe Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik in October 1957 proved that satellites could fly. Nonetheless, Dr. Roman’s early work at NASA lacked the glamour attached to the manned spaceflight program of the 1960s in response to President John F. Kennedy’s call for America to put a man on the moon by the decade’s end.Dr. Roman retired from NASA in 1979 but continued as a consultant as work progressed toward the Hubble’s launching. In 2017, when Lego created a 231-piece Women of NASA set, Dr. Roman’s likeness was among four it featured as women who were space pioneers.Dr. Roman’s death, at a hospital, was confirmed by a cousin, Laura Verreau, The Washington Post reported. It said she had lived in Chevy Chase, Md., and had no immediate survivors.In her later years, Dr. Roman passed on her love for space research to young people and especially sought to inspire girls to pursue a career in science. She taught astronomy to fifth graders at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington in the late 1990s.As she put it: One of the reasons I like working with schools is to try to convince women that they can be scientists and that science can be fun.