Happy Anniversary Hubble Space Telescope

April 20th, 2013


The Hubble Space Telescope, a successful collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, will mark its 23rd anniversary in Earth orbit on Wednesday, April 24th.

In celebration the partnership, along with the Space Telescope Science Institute and other organizations associated with the space observatory, has released an image of the iconic Horsehead Nebula, a gigantic cloud of dust and gas 1,500 light years distant in the constellation Orion.

Astronomers mark 23rd anniversary of Hubble Space Telescope launch with new image of Horsehead Nebula. Photo Credit/NASA/ESA/STSciI/USRA

In the Hubble image, the Horsehead’s faint upper ridge is  illuminated by Sigma Orionis, a young five-star system just out of view. Along the nebula’s top ridge, two fledgling stars peek out from their now-exposed nurseries.

The Horsehead is one of the most often photographed objects in astronomy, both by amateurs and professionals.

A classic image of the Horsehead Nebula. Photo Credit/NASA/ESA/STSiI/USRA

The new Hubble image was taken with Wide Field Camera 3, an upgrade to the telescope installed by space shuttle astronauts in 2009. In all,  space shuttle crews traveled to the Hubble Space Telescope five times following the April 24, 1990 launch by a crew that included NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, then a shuttle pilot astronaut.

In this image, spacewalking astronaut Drew Feustel, his feet anchored to the tip of Atlantis' robot arm, maneuvers the new Wide Field Camera 3 into place on the Hubble Space Telescope. The camera was installed in 2009 during the last of five shuttle upgrade missions to the observatory. Photo Credit/NASA Photo


The final shuttle Hubble mission in 2009 was intended to extend the life of the famous space telescope as long as possible.

In this illustration, the future James Webb Space Telescope is fully deployed. JWST, designed to study the earliest star systems, will orbit the sun nearly a million miles from the Earth. Illustration Credit/NASA

Its successor, the more powerful James Webb Space Telescope, is currently in the development and test phase.  It is scheduled for launching in October 2018 atop a European Space Agency Ariane V rocket from French Guiana.