The Hubble Space Telescope is an optical observatory telescope, which observes in the ultraviolet, visible and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It got its name from Edwin Hubble, a 20th-century astronomer, who was among the first to state that the redshift of far away galaxies is caused by the expanding of the universe. Its 1990 launch is marked as the most significant advance in astronomy. The program is led by NASA in cooperation with ESA
It is also often referred to as ‘The People’s Telescope’. One of its main parts is the 2.4 m wide Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, which transfers the collected light further to four other instruments. Hubble is 600 km in space, in low Earth orbit. As it is outside of the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere it is able to take extremely high-resolution images. With its immensely detailed pictures of visible light, scientists were able to have a deeper look into space and time, determining the age of the universe to 13.7 billion years. Other pictures also include a planet outside our solar system.
The smile of the universe was captured while taking pictures of stars, to get an insight into how they are born throughout the cosmos. ‘’WFC13 is able to view distant galaxies at an unprecedented resolution – high enough to locate and study regions of star formation within them’’ a NASA official explained.
The smiling face is mainly shaped from the galaxy cluster SDSS J0952+3434 and is actually a trick of gravity and light. The two eyes are formed by two galaxies, while a third distorted galaxy appears as the smile. As NASA and ESA explained in a statement: ‘’The lower, arc-shaped galaxy has the characteristic shape of a galaxy that has been gravitationally lensed – its light has passed near a massive object en route to us, causing it to become distorted and stretched out of shape’’ – this is gravitational lensing.
Hubble is familiar with smiling faces, from its 2015 discovery, a complete face with nose and cheeks. This face was made up of galaxies from the cluster SDSS J1038+4849.
The Hubble Space Telescope is able to and continues to provide pictures that let us understand our universe better.
Written by: Rebeka Oláh
Rebeka Oláh is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.