Hubble Favorites

A National Air and Space Museum astronomer picks some of his favorite images from the storied telescope.

NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScl/AURA)

Prelaunch Primary Mirror Inspection


Hubble has been orbiting Earth for 19 years; its 2.4-meter mirror, write DeVorkin and Smith, can “examine fine details of astronomical objects far better than any optical mirror from the ground in that day. Its resolving power would be equivalent to being able to distinguish the left and right headlights of a car in California seen from New York, or features less than 1/30,000th the size of the full moon.”

“Surprising as it may seem today, no early images were released when the telescope was launched in 1990. NASA managers, who were concerned about the response if the HST should malfunction, as well as some astronomers, who wanted to ensure they would be first to use this remarkable new instrument for science on particular targets, argued against immediately showing pictures to the public. Over the telescope’s lifetime their attitudes would change, and most would come to recognize the popular value of the Hubble’s glorious images.”

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