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Nothing But the Facts About the Hubble Space Telescope

written by: informationishere•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 7/15/2010

The Hubble Space Telescope or HST is undoubtedly the best optical space telescope of recent times. The extra ordinary quality of Hubble's images has provided great stimulus to astronomical research.

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    Basic Facts

    Right: Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

    1. Named After: Edwin HubbleHubble 

    2. Lifetime: 19 years and 3 months elapsed.

    3. Mass: 11,110 Kg (24,500 lb)

    4. Orbit Height: 569 Km (353 miles)

    5. Orbit Period: 96-97 minutes

    6. Orbit Velocity: 28000 kph (17500 mph)

    7. Orbit Type: Near-circular low Earth orbit.

    8. Telescope type: Ritchey-Chretien reflector

    9. Wavelength: Optical, ultraviolet, near-infrared (115 - 2500 nm)

    10. Primary Mirror Diameter: 2.4 m (94.5 inches)

    11. Focal length: 57.6 m (189 ft)

    12. Pointing Accuracy: 0.007 arcseconds.

    13. Launch vehicle: Space shuttle Discovery.

    14. Launch Date: April 24, 1990

    15. Cost at launch: $1.5 billion

    16. Organisations: NASA, ESA and STScI.

    17. Power Usage: 2800 watts

    18. Batteries: 6 NiH (Nickel-Hydrogen) batteries.

    Below: Eagle Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)


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    1. Advanced Camera for Surverys (ACS) - With its sharp image quality and enhanced sensitivity, this new camera is responsible for most of the magnificent deep space images of the Hubble. It was installed into Hubble in 2002 and experienced a electric short in 2007 after which only one of its three cameras remained functional.

    2. Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WFPC2) - This camera records very sharp images of faraway objects and is the main camera of Hubble. It consists of three wide field cameras and one planetary camera.

    3. Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) - This camera records the deepest objects in space providing valuable information about the birth of stars and galaxies.

    4. Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) - It splits the light from the observed object into components of different wavelength. This tells us about the temperature, composition and motion of the object.

    5. Faint Object Camera (FOC) - The camera was removed in 2002 and replaced by ACS. However, it had recorded high resolution images of faint objects. The camera had a small field of view.

    6. Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) - The guidance system enables Hubble to achieve a pointing accuracy of 0.007 arcseconds over long periods of time.

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    Fun Facts

    Right: Einstein's Cross formed by gravitational lensing. Credits: NASA, ESA, STScIEinstien's Cross 

    1. Hubble's first image was of the star cluster NGC 3532 on May 20, 1990.

    2. Hubble sends 120 GB of science data every week. This is equivalent to about 1 Km of books on a shelf.

    3. Hubble's mirrors are ground so perfectly that they do not deviate from a perfect curve by more than 1/800,000th of an inch.

    4. The most frequently observed object from the Hubble Space Telescope is the Earth which is regularly pointed at for calibration purposes.

    5. The Hubble Space Telescope has been serviced by Space missions five times till now:

    a) Servicing Mission 1: December 1993

    b) Servicing Mission 2: February 1997

    c) Servicing Mission 3A: December 1999

    d) Servicing Mission 3B: February 2002

    e) Servicing Mission 4: May 2009

    The servicing mission 4 will be the last trip to Hubble.

    6. Hubble was scheduled for launch in October 1986 but had to be delayed till April 24, 1990 due to the explosion of space shuttle Challenger in January 1986.

    Below: Crab Nebula.Credits: NASA/CXC/ASU/J.Hester et al.


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