Astronomy and Space

Observation and Measurement

For whom is the Hubble Space Telescope named?

Edwin Powell Hubble (1889–1953) was an American astronomer known for his studies of galaxies. His study of nebulae, or clouds—the faint, unresolved luminous patches in the sky—showed that some of them were large groups of many stars. Hubble classified galaxies by their shapes as being spiral, elliptical, or irregular.

Hubble’s Law establishes a relationship between the velocity of recession of a galaxy and its distance. The speed at which a galaxy is moving away from our solar system (measured by its redshift, the shift of its light to longer wavelengths, presumed to be caused by the Doppler effect) is directly proportional to the galaxy’s distance from it.

The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed by the space shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. The telescope, which would be free of distortions caused by Earth’s atmosphere, was designed to see deeper into space than any telescope on land. However, on June 27, 1990, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that the telescope had a defect in one of its mirrors that prevented it from properly focusing. Although other instruments, including one designed to make observations in ultraviolet light, were still operating, nearly 40 percent of the telescope’s experiments had to be postponed until repairs were made. On December 2, 1993, astronauts were able to make the necessary repairs. Four of Hubble’s six gyroscopes were replaced as well as two solar panels. Hubble’s primary camera, which had a flawed mirror, was also replaced. Since that mission four other servicing missions have been conducted, dramatically improving the HST’s capabilities.


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