HubbleSite
A Decade of Discovery
What a View:  Hubble's Eye on the Cosmos

HUBBLE'S SUPER VIEW

Larger earthbound telescopes can see as far as Hubble can. All telescopes are essentially "time machines." Probing the secrets of "deep" space means looking farther back in time. That's because light from faraway galaxies takes millions to billions of years to reach Earth, providing astronomers with a record of how those objects appeared long ago. But the "eye" in space has sharper vision because of its super location. At 353 miles (569 kilometers) above our planet, the orbiting observatory is outside Earth's turbulent blanket of air that makes star images wiggle.

Hubble in OrbitHubble can snap those sharper images while moving. Unlike terrestrial observatories, which are perched on mountain tops, Hubble doesn't stay put. It whirls around Earth every 97 minutes at 17,500 mph (28,163 kph). The telescope has no rocket motor: it is in orbit around Earth and runs on sunlight. Hubble also does what it's told. Earthbound computers send detailed instructions, telling it where to point and which cameras to use.

A VERSATILE TELESCOPE

Eagle NebulaOther orbiting observatories have probed the secrets of space, but Hubble is the largest and most versatile. Its visible-light camera — called the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 — has consistently delivered stunning images of celestial objects, including the pillars of dust and gas that harbor nascent stars and the colorful death shrouds of aging, Sun-like stars.

Although the visible-light camera may be Hubble's "bread and butter" instrument, it's by no means the telescope's only source of celestial revenue. Hubble has a fleet of other science instruments that covers a broad range of light, from ultraviolet to near infrared. These instruments allow Hubble to probe a galaxy's hottest stars and to peer far across space to study the evolution of galaxies. With Hubble's help, astronomers have monitored weather patterns on our solar system planets and harvested important information about stars and galaxies.

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