Hubble Space Telescope Set to Keep Its Eye on the Cosmos Through 2021



NASA’s overachieving Hubble Space Telescope keeps plugging along with its discoveries — and will be doing so for at least the next five years after NASA extended its science operations contract to operate the telescope through 2021.

“Hubble is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020’s, securing its place in history as an outstanding general purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA heralded the launch of Hubble on April 24, 1990, as “the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope.”

Hubble’s incredible reach — made possible by the fact that its sight was not impaired by the distortions created by the Earth’s atmosphere — allowed astronomers to get closer looks at space phenomena like never before, watching stars and planets as they form, examining exoplanets and capturing the power of cosmic impacts.

Since its first day on the job, Hubble has made more than 1.2 million observations and its findings have been published in more than 12,800 scientific papers, according to NASA data released last year, making it one of the most successful scientific instruments ever built.

Whizzing around Earth at 17,000 mph, Hubble has racked up more than 3 billion miles in flight, according to NASA.

Its incredible resolution has allowed the telescope to look at areas as far as 13.4 billion light years away from Earth — in essence, peering back into a time when our universe first emerged from the Big Bang. The telescope is so precise that it is equivalent to someone shining a laser beam on a dime from 200 miles away, according to NASA.

Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is set to launch in 2018.

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