When most people think of space, what come to mind are names like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. When scientists think about space, the name that comes to mind is Hubble, a space telescope we sent on a twenty-year Journey to explore the origins of the universe. It’s already being called the most scientifically significant space project we ever embarked on. Taking pictures of the universe that literally let you and me and everyone else look back in time and see what the universe looked like13 billion years ago.
The images are like nothing ever seen before, as much art as science, visions of a universe more violent and fantastic than anyone had dared to imagine. Everything from razor-sharp views of the planets in our own solar system, to the vast stellar nurseries where stars and planets are born. Some show us the explosive outbursts of dying suns, others the swirling masses of stars that make up the galaxies. But Hubble isn’t just giving us extraordinary pictures, it’s helping astronomers unlock the secrets of the universe.
Morgan: You know, people have been wondering about how the universe began probably since the caveman, right. The caveman wondered out, looked up and saw those dots of lights, and he has no clue.
Dr.Bmce Morgan is the Associate Director for Science for The Hubble Space Telescope.
Morgan: Generations of humans have gone by with absolutely no clue about how the universe started. When my father went to school, no matter how smart he was or how smart his teachers were, nobody had a clue how old was the universe, how were atoms made, how are stars formed No one knew.
The Hubble space telescope is the size of a greyhound bus, it weighs ten tons and flies 400 miles above the earth, moving five miles a second. Its cameras and scientific instruments are so sophisticated that they can capture light that began traveling through space more than 13 billion years ago. By the time that light finally enters the te1escope and is transformed into an image, the picture it shows is of the universe as it was back when the light began its journey in the unimaginably distant past, in effect turning the telescope into a time machine.
Dr. Mario Livio is the head of the Science Division for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Livio: When we look back in time, using Hubble, we can see the universe, how it looked when it was less than a billion years old. And we can see what galaxies looked back then, when they were the building blocks of today's galaxies.
But why is knowing this is important today?
Livio: Because we want to understand our origins. I mean it's a very fundamental thing.