Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Exploring Furthest Reaches of Space

BY Lea Winerman  April 23, 2010 at 2:58 PM EDT

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 20th birthday Saturday after launching on April 24, 1990. In the years since, it’s taken about half a million pictures of the universe.

The telescope had a troubled start, when astronomers realized weeks into the mission that a misshapen main mirror was causing it to send back fuzzy images. But after astronauts made a repair in 1993, Hubble began sending back some of the most dazzling images of space ever taken. Those images have fascinated both astronomers and the public.

“Hubble has gotten people interested in space and science related to the universe who never had any interest in this kind of science before,” astrophysicist Mario Livio told National Geographic News. Livio works at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Hubble’s operations center. “Hubble images have become a part of our culture,” he said.

Astronauts have made repairs and upgrades to Hubble on four other servicing missions, most recently in 2009. NASA has said that there will be no more repairs to the telescope, but the agency expects it to last until at least 2014.

Above, see some of Hubble’s most famous images. And visit NOVA for more coverage of Hubble, including this report on past repairs to the telescope.