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Hubble Space Telescope - HST
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Embroidered patch for the Hubble Space Telescope - HST

The patch measures approximately    4" x 3" (10cm x 8cm) and represents the HST in orbit.

Our window on the Universe

  • Operational
  • Launched 24 April 1990
  • Final servicing mission 2009 - STS-125
  • Mission end 2013 (approx)

The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most important astronomical projects of all time. Orbiting 600 km above the Earth at eight kilometres every second, Hubble is our window into the cosmos.

The Hubble Space Telescope has had a major impact in almost every area of astronomy. From magnificent views of deep space to the origin of the Universe itself, Hubble has witnessed the birth and death of stars, has detected new planets, massive cosmic explosions and monster black holes.

Hubble has changed our understanding of space and contributed to research on subjects as diverse as the science of our own Solar System to the structure of the most distant galaxies. Among its numerous discoveries Hubble has revealed that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating, indicating the existence of mysterious 'dark energy' in space.

Hubble received its final service in May 2009. During a series of complex spacewalks, the crew of space shuttle Atlantis carried out repairs and upgrades to some of Hubble's components. With its newly installed Wide Field Camera, Hubble will be able to see better - and further - than ever.

For more information, visit the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope European homepage.

Mission facts

  • The Hubble project is an international collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
  • It is named after Edwin Powell Hubble, who was the first to show that the Universe is expanding. His research laid the foundations for the 'Big Bang' model of the origin of the Universe.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope's vision is roughly five times as sharp as ground-based telescopes on Earth. When it was first launched the primary mirror, at 2.4 m in diameter, produced blurred images due to a flaw in the shape of the mirror (1/50th of the thickness of a human hair). This was corrected during the final servicing mission in May 2009.
  • Hubble has taken more than 800,000 pictures of the cosmos. Each day the telescope generates enough data - ten gigabytes- enough to fill the hard drive of a typical home computer in two weeks.
  • The successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled for launch in 2013.


Hubble's telescope feeds a suite of five scientific instruments. These instruments are equipped with highly sensitive cameras and sensors to work across much of the optical spectrum - in visible light (the light we see with the naked eye) as well as near infrared and ultraviolet. Both near infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths are filtered out by Earth's atmosphere and cannot be viewed from the ground.

The 'Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2' is the instrument behind many of the most famous Hubble pictures. As Hubble's main camera, it is currently used to observe just about everything.

The telescope uses modular components so they can be replaced when they stop working or become outdated.

UK involvement

UK astronomers use images and data from Hubble on a daily basis. Much of this work is centred at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy (IoA).

UK space scientists worked on the development of one of Hubble's four cameras, known as the Faint Object Camera.