Astronomy

Hubble Telescope



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When the Hubble Space Telescope, fondly known as Hubble throughout the world, hitched a ride on the space shuttle in April of 1990, it was hoped that the versatility and size of the telescope would open up the secrets of our solar system and the universe. It has accomplished that goal and the multitude of discoveries that have been made with the aid of Hubble have revolutionized our understanding of our tiny solar system as well as gave us insight into the mysteries of our vast universe. There are ten discoveries that top the list of discoveries made by Hubble.

Perhaps the most important discovery of the Hubble is what scientists theorize is dark energy. The most commonly accepted theory of dark energy is explained as the energy that occupies the space between galaxies and that this dark energy is continually pushing galaxies apart creating an expansion of the universe. It is believed that approximately 70% of the universe is made up of dark Energy. Another theory suggests that dark energy is tied to our planet being inhabitable because dark energy has pushed our planet inside our solar system to just the right position to make it possible for life to exist here on earth. The process of dark energy was observed, with aid from the Hubble, at the time of the explosion of a supernova and the resultant expansion around it.

The second most important discovery made by Hubble would be that of Cepheid variable stars. Cepheid variable stars appear to pulsate with light. These pulses are very precise. Observing the pulses of these stars and the time that the light requires to reach earth makes it possible to determine distance in space.

What scientists feel is the third most important discovery of Hubble is known as the deep field shot. This was an observation of a small portion of deep space made by Hubble over a period of ten days. Over this 10 day period Hubble sent a million second long exposure to deep space back to earth. By studying these photos, scientists were able to observe young galaxies and galaxy evolution. This could possibly help estimate the age of galaxies, including our own.

The fourth most important discovery of Hubble is the chemical makeup of extrasolar planets. Extrasolar planets are planets that orbit a star, like our own sun, outside our solar system. Hubble was able to determine that the elements that make up an extrasolar planet the size of Jupiter are sodium, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.

The fifth most important discovery of Hubble is the existence of elliptical galaxies. Spiral and disk shaped galaxies move in a spiral motion, but elliptical galaxies rotate more slowly and therefore does not flatten into a disk or spiral shape. Elliptical galaxies or older than spiral and disk shaped galaxies and it is believed that star formation in elliptical galaxies has ceased.

Scientists were very excited over the sixth most important discovery of Hubble, which revealed the source of gamma ray bursts. Gamma ray bursts are the explosion of light when a large star explodes or goes supernova and collapses into a black hole. Scientists believe that gamma ray bursts help to explain the theory of the Big Bang, which many believe created our own galaxy.

The seventh most important discovery of Hubble is the nature of quasars. A quasar is a distant galaxy that has a very active nucleus, which emits electromagnetic energy in the form of radio waves and light. From Hubble's unique point of observation, it is believed that the center of the galaxy where a quasar originates has a supermassive black hole which attracts gases with its extremely strong gravitational pull.

The eighth most important discovery by Hubble is that nebulae are the most likely places for new planetary system formation. With the aid of Hubble, scientists were able to see that disk shaped interstellar clouds of dust, containing hydrogen gas, helium and plasma, surround young stars. These clouds may provide the material to form new planets and planetary systems.

The ninth most important discovery made by Hubble was the result of a comet impact on a planet. Never before had scientists actually seen an impact of a comet on a planet until they were able to observe the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994 through the lens of Hubble. This observation caused scientists throughout the world to start brain storming about different ways to divert such a catastrophic event should our planet ever be threatened. Also more astronomers are aware of the importance of spotting these threats.

The tenth most important discovery of Hubble is the ability to see and to count planets. For centuries man has wanted to know if there were planets in the universe that could support life and with the powerful lens of Hubble it is possible to identify planets outside our solar system. With the aid of Hubble scientists have counted more than 400 planets surrounding more than 300 stars outside our solar system.

Since the launch of Hubble, astronauts have made repairs to the telescope on five missions and it is hoped that Hubble will continue to function until 2014. But even though it is aging, the Hubble is still exploring our solar system and sending us back astounding pictures and information. The most recent, November 5, 2009, show the stunning image of the birth of a new star near the core of the Southern Pinwheel galaxy.One can hardly imagine what we will learn from the Hubble telescope before it finally stops functioning and can no longer teach mankind the secrets of the universe.







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