One of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the 20th century was the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble has revolutionized astronomy and our understanding of the universe by providing unparalleled views of distant galaxies and objects in space. In this essay, we will explore the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope and the scientific breakthroughs that it has facilitated.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most iconic and influential tools in modern astronomy. It has provided us with stunning images of distant galaxies, planetary systems, and other celestial phenomena that have deepened our understanding of the universe. But how was this remarkable telescope built and what makes it so special? In this article, we will explore the fascinating story of the Hubble Space Telescope and its construction.
The Need for a Space Telescope
The Limitations of Ground-Based Observatories
Ground-based observatories have been the primary tool for astronomical observations for centuries. However, there are several limitations to ground-based observatories that make them inadequate for certain types of observations. One of the biggest limitations is the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere absorbs and scatters light, creating a blurry effect known as atmospheric turbulence. This turbulence can make it impossible to see fine details of distant objects.
The Advantages of a Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope was designed to overcome these limitations by placing a telescope in space, above the Earth’s atmosphere. In space, there is no atmospheric turbulence, and light is not absorbed or scattered by the atmosphere. This allows for much clearer and more detailed observations of distant objects.
Design and Assembly
The Hubble Space Telescope was designed and built by a team of scientists and engineers from NASA and the European Space Agency. The construction of the telescope began in the 1970s, and it took over a decade to complete. The Hubble was assembled in orbit by a team of astronauts during five separate Space Shuttle missions.
The Hubble Space Telescope consists of several key components, including:
The primary mirror, which is 2.4 meters in diameter and made of ultra-low expansion glass. The mirror is the telescope’s most important component, as it collects and focuses light from distant objects.
The secondary mirror, which reflects light from the primary mirror to the scientific instruments.
The scientific instruments, which include cameras and spectrographs that capture and analyze light from distant objects.
The solar panels, which provide power to the telescope.
The communication system, which allows the telescope to transmit data back to Earth.
Scientific Breakthroughs Enabled by the Hubble Space Telescope
Discoveries in Astronomy
The Hubble Space Telescope has enabled numerous discoveries in astronomy, including:
The discovery of dark energy, which is the mysterious force that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
The discovery of the first exoplanet, which is a planet outside of our solar system.
The discovery of the true size and age of the universe.
The discovery of the first images of galaxies in their infancy.
Advancements in Cosmology
The Hubble Space Telescope has also facilitated many advancements in cosmology, including:
The refinement of the Hubble constant, which is a measure of the rate at which the universe is expanding.
The study of the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the afterglow of the Big Bang.
The study of the early universe, including the formation of galaxies and the first stars.
FAQs – How Was the Hubble Space Telescope Built?
What is the Hubble Space Telescope and why was it built?
The Hubble Space Telescope, or HST for short, is a powerful astronomical instrument orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 340 miles. It was built to capture high-resolution images and collect data from various celestial objects such as stars, planets, and galaxies. The HST is named after Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer who made significant contributions to the field of astronomy and cosmology.
How was the Hubble Space Telescope built, and who built it?
The Hubble Space Telescope was built by a team of engineers and scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, USA. Construction began in the late 1970s, and the HST was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1990.
The telescope’s structure consists of multiple components, including a primary mirror, secondary mirror, and other scientific instruments. The primary mirror, which is the most critical component of the telescope, was constructed from a single piece of glass that was polished to a precise shape and coated with a thin layer of highly reflective aluminum. The secondary mirror and other scientific instruments were assembled and installed onto the telescope’s main body after launch.
How long did it take to build the Hubble Space Telescope?
The entire process of designing, building, and testing the Hubble Space Telescope took over a decade. The original concept for the space telescope was conceived in the 1960s, with active development starting in the mid-1970s. However, the launch of the HST was delayed due to various technical issues, political changes, and funding challenges. It was finally launched into space in 1990, over 15 years after the initial planning began.
How much did it cost to build the Hubble Space Telescope?
The total cost of building the Hubble Space Telescope was approximately $1.5 billion, which includes the cost of the telescopes, the launch vehicles, and the various support services. This amount does not include the cost of numerous repairs, upgrades, and maintenance activities performed on the telescope over the years.
What kind of scientific discoveries has the Hubble Space Telescope made?
Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has made numerous significant discoveries in the field of astronomy. Some of its most famous discoveries include the age of the universe, the existence of dark matter, and the formation of planets around distant stars. The Hubble has also captured stunning images of distant galaxies, nebulas, and other celestial objects, expanding our knowledge and understanding of the universe.