Hand-Held Hubble: The Real Telescope Compared

Hubble Floating Above Earth

The Hubble Space Telescope orbits 343 miles (552 km) above the surface of the Earth.
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Hubble Floating Above Earth

Figure 1: HST exterior
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Hubble Floating Above Earth

Figure 2: HST interior
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The diagrams at the left show many of the parts of the Hubble Space Telescope featured in our models. The expert paper model allows you the option to build the interior (figure 2) of the telescope, while the PVC and paper models focus primarily on the exterior (figure 1).

Most of the parts visible on the exterior of the telescope models are parts of Hubble’s spacecraft systems, which make it possible for the telescope to orbit the Earth and gather light from the universe. Among these parts are the solar panels, which help power the telescope and charge its batteries; the aperture door, which allows light into the telescope and closes to protect it from debris; and the light baffle, which keeps unwanted light from interfering with observations.

To create images, Hubble’s primary mirror reflects the light from the object being observed toward a secondary mirror. The secondary mirror then focuses the light and reflects it toward the science instruments, which record it and send it back to Earth as a stream of data. For more information about how the data become pictures, visit Behind the Pictures.

The science instruments – the parts that actually “take” Hubble’s pictures – are located in the aft shroud, behind the primary mirror. The science instruments available for construction in the expert paper model are the instruments that were installed during the NASA astronauts’ fourth mission to the telescope in 2002. For more information on Hubble’s instruments, visit Nuts and Bolts.

The outside of the telescope is covered in a blanket of reflective insulation that protects the telescope from extreme temperatures. It also has handrails and door latches for the astronauts who periodically visit the telescope to perform repairs and install new instruments. Hubble’s vision has improved with each successive mission. To learn more about what goes into a servicing mission, visit Team Hubble. Kids can try their luck at planning a servicing mission with Amazing Space’s Mission Mastermind.



Spacecraft Hubble in the Gallery

Use these reference photos to help you add details to your model. Click to enlarge.

Actual telescope view 1Actual telescope view 1Actual telescope view 1Actual telescope view 1Actual telescope view 1Actual telescope view 1


The paper models are made to a scale of 1/48th the size of the actual Hubble Space Telescope. This chart shows the size comparisons between Hubble and the paper models.

The PVC model, not listed below, is approximately 1/47th the size of Hubble. Its actual measurements are not exactly to scale with the real telescope, but they are very close. The sizes were rounded to the nearest size of the PVC pipe that is commonly available.

Telescope Model vs. Real size comparison
telescope part actual size 1:48 scale (paper models)
inches meters inches cm
aft shroud diameter 163.3 4.2 3 9/10 9.1
forward shell diameter 116.3 2.9 2 1/2 6.4
forward shell length 268.0 6.8 6 3/8 16.2
aft shroud + equipment length 240.5 6.1 4 1/8 10.4
solar panel length 297.5 7.6 5 13/16 14.7
solar panel width 96.6 2.5 1 15/16 4.9
antenna rod length 565.0 14.4 9 1/4 23.5
primary mirror diameter 94.5 2.4 2 1/3 6.3
total length 508.5 12.9 11 1/3 28.7
total weight 25,000lb 11.567kg