How Have NASA’s Hubble Telescope Images Improved Over the Past Decade?


Before the introduction of the telescope, those with a desire to understand space had no choice but to rely on their naked eye from a distance.  Since the 16th century, telescopes have become more and more advanced, giving us better insights into the universe around us.  NASA’s Hubble Telescope is a unique example of what this type of technology is capable of, and because of it, we have been able to observe space events and space objects like never before.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has advanced over the years as technology has evolved.  Thanks to this technology, we have made quite a number of fascinating discoveries.

NASA’s Hubble Telescope History

In 1924, an American astronomer named Edwin Hubble wanted to disprove the theory that the Milky Way was the extent of the universe.  He used the Hooker Telescope in Los Angeles to observe multiple galaxies outside of our own, thus proving that the Milky Way was only one of many.  However, his observational capabilities were always thwarted by the Earth’s atmosphere getting in the way, causing gas and dust to interfere with his view.

The Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990 and named affectionately after the astronomer who played an indirect role in its development, is a large observatory that offers a perfectly clear view of the galaxies as it is beyond the Earth’s atmosphere of clouds and dust.  Over the years, the H.T. been improved upon, and so in just 30 years, it has become stunningly advanced.  Upgrading the Hubble Telescope is an ongoing process that will likely continue for as long as it is in use.

How the Hubble Telescope Has Advanced

In 30 years, the Hubble has made almost 1.5 million individual discoveries, and has therefore proven itself to be a highly valuable addition to NASA’s arsenal.  It’s responsible for the discovery of Pluto’s moons, and observed the collision between Jupiter and Comet Shoemaker – Levy 9.  And, throughout all of these years, its imaging abilities have become more and more advanced.

In 1997, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) was installed, which was a major gamechanger in terms of imaging of space objects and events.  It users spectroscopy to separate light into its color components, which doesn’t just aid greatly in visibility, but also allows observers to note temperature, chemical changes and the movements of space objects.  It records the full spectrum of spatially vast objects such as galaxies, something that had never been possible before.  This allows scientists to observe more complex systems in space with their own eyes, which has enormously advanced space research overall.

In 2004, the STIS was temporary disabled due to a glitch, but it was restored in 2009.  Since then, space observation has seen a new golden age.  The STIS has, in the last decade, observed black holes, which were previously impossible to see physically, along with stars such as Eta Carinae, an unstable binary star in our own galaxy that is predicted to be a supernova in the future.

As it uses spectroscopy, it has observed important spectrums throughout space, including a cluster of stars called the Antennae Galaxies, with the technology giving us the ability to understand their age and chemical makeup, as well as their temperatures.  Another impressive contribution was the discovery of water on Jupiter’s moon Europa, a particularly revealing and eventful observation that many of us remember well.

While the STIS is by far the most useful development as far as the Hubble is concerned, it’s not the only one.  Due to the importance of this tool, upgrading it consistently is a priority as far as NASA is concerned.  Various instruments are added or replaced at frequent intervals to ensure that it is always utilizing only the most advanced technology to provide accurate, easily observable images that are crisp, clear, and loaded with crucial information about space.

Currently, the Hubble has many uses.  It was able to determine the age of the universe, which gave us invaluable insight.  Further, it can observe seasonal patterns of different space objects including planets in our own galaxy, along with images of exoplanets that had been particularly mysterious to astronomers.


With its enormous size, location and advancements over the years, there is very little that the Hubble Telescope cannot do when it comes to observing the universe around us.  Edwin Hubble was limited to the technology of his day, which greatly reduced his ability to provide concrete data about space, but NASA has more than made up for this with a truly spectacular, efficient, and regularly upgraded piece of equipment that has answered some of the greatest mysteries in space over the last several centuries.

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