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25 Years Later, What's Next For Hubble?

It was 25 years ago that Hubble Space Telescope launched into space. The 44-foot orbiting telescope has made 1.2 million observations of celestial bodies far into the reaches of the universe. It has helped change the understanding of space, and it’s made nebulae and black holes the thing of elementary school classrooms.

“Hubble’s made the universe a lot more accessible to people,”  longtime Hubble astronomer Kenneth Sembach told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “It certainly has given astronomers new views of everything from stars to distant galaxies, and certainly in the case of the public, it’s brought the universe into their living room, onto their television screens, onto their computer screens, onto the posters in their kids classrooms. It’s kind of amazing, after 25 years it seems like Hubble is everywhere ingrained in our culture.”

The telescope has been serviced several times since its conception in the 1970s, but due to the retirement of the space shuttle program, the instrumentation can no longer be serviced by humans.

“At the moment it’s really not necessary,” said Sembach. “The science that it’s producing is better than ever.”   

More Images From Hubble Telescope

Guest

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

On the right is part of the first image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) Wide Field/Planetary Camera. All objects seen are stars within the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI
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On the right is part of the first image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) Wide Field/Planetary Camera. All objects seen are stars within the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI
Resembling a wide-brimmed hat with a tall bulge at the center, galaxy M104 is nicknamed the Sombrero Galaxy. Far larger than any hat on Earth, this Sombrero is 50,000 light-years wide. Credits: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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Resembling a wide-brimmed hat with a tall bulge at the center, galaxy M104 is nicknamed the Sombrero Galaxy. Far larger than any hat on Earth, this Sombrero is 50,000 light-years wide. Credits: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
A halo of light surrounds an unusual, variable star called V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon). The red supergiant star, seen in the middle of the image, is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth. NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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A halo of light surrounds an unusual, variable star called V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon). The red supergiant star, seen in the middle of the image, is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth. NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The Monkey Head Nebula is a region of star birth located 6,400 light-years away. It is also known as NGC 2174 and Sharpless Sh2-252. In 2014, astronomers using Hubble’s powerful infrared vision imaged a small portion of the nebula in the area of the monkey’s “eye.” Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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The Monkey Head Nebula is a region of star birth located 6,400 light-years away. It is also known as NGC 2174 and Sharpless Sh2-252. In 2014, astronomers using Hubble’s powerful infrared vision imaged a small portion of the nebula in the area of the monkey’s “eye.” Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming. Hubble’s infrared vision shows it in a dramatic new light. Credits: Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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The iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming. Hubble’s infrared vision shows it in a dramatic new light. Credits: Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)