27 October 2009


it's hard to believe that next year will mark 20 years since the launch of the hubble space telescope into earth orbit. this extraordinary piece of hardware has provided many thousands of visual images, from our solar system to deepest space. the data returned by hubble have been instrumental in refining with great precision the distances between objects in space, helping to refine estimates of the age of the universe. it also confirmed the theory that the vast majority of galaxies have black holes at their center, mapped small patches of sky that are the deepest (i.e. most distant) ever obtained at visual wavelengths (see image below, click to enlarge -- the majority of objects you see are not individual stars, but entire galaxies), and recorded the collision of fragments of comet shoemaker-levy 9 with jupiter in 1994, all with jaw-dropping visual clarity. the hubble space telescope ranks among the most prolific and useful tools ever devised by human ingenuity.

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