Happy Birthday, Hubble
Today is the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope, without argument one of the best pieces of technology humanity has ever come up with. This beautiful little pile of circuits, mirrors and thrusters has given us all a deep understanding of our place in the universe. When you consider that just 80 years ago, the brightest scientific minds in the world thought the entirety of the universe was just the milky way galaxy, the progress we’ve made through hubble is even more astounding.
It’s peered deeper into the universe than we’ve ever even been capable of looking. In fact, one time it stared at a relatively empty region of space for over 96 hours (you know, just because), and came up WITH THIS . If ever you feel confident of your superior place in the cosmos, you gotta consider that the awesomely huge bigosity of the ultra deep field, with its thousands of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, many of those orbited by planets, some of which certainly have generated and evolved life probably more bizzare and wonderful than we are capable of imagining. All of that, in that image there, take up a region of the sky smaller than a dime held at arms length in the sky. No, seriously. So all of those trillions and trillions of stars and planets and galaxies and everything- it’s probably like that ALL OVER THE SKY! The scale of numbers stops making any sense when you consider the hugely, awesomely big view of the universe that hubble has provided us.
Perhaps more importantly, the beauty of the universe has been made accessible to all of us because of Hubble. I’ll spam you all with the beauty of the universe in a moment, but first I just want to remind everyone that this jaw-dropping elegance was completely produced by simple, known forces acting gradually over billions of years. While we may be brought to tears at the sheer power of these images, the forces that produced these images themselves were inert and uncaring. It is a testament to the human condition that, despite the apparant purposelessness of the universe, we can find beauty and inspiration from the patterns, and build marvels of science and engineering just to view them. The universe may be infinite, cold and uncaring, but as long as it has little ape-things made of star dust living on a perfect little rock orbiting an average star in the suburbs of an average galaxy among countless others, that can appreciate it, that’s really all that matter.
So, thank you hubble, for opening the door to the universe for all of us.
She’ll be up there till at least 2014, thanks to the hard working folks at NASA, and by then she’ll be joined by the new, more powerful James Webb scope. We have many more years of astoundingly gorgeous photos to look forward to, and a deeper understanding of the universe to boot. If you want more pictures, GO TO THE HUBBLE WEBSITE, for cripes sake. They’ve been taking photos for 20 years now, there’s bound to be something you’ll like.