It is twenty years since the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched. Though plagued by cost overruns, and a ghastly blunder in manufacturing the main mirror that had to be corrected by a Space Shuttle mission in December 1993 (which, essentially, put corrective eyeglasses on the telescope), the HST went on to do tremendously important and exciting work.
Below, I give links to some of the most fantastic awe-inspiring images taken by Hubble. (These are found at the marvelous site “Astronomy Picture of the Day”). Maybe I am just a simpleton, but I don’t see how anyone can look at pictures like this and not believe in God. Hubble isn’t just about beautiful pictures, though. It has enormously increased our understanding of the universe. This site lists the “top ten” discoveries of HST. The most fundamental, I think most scientists would agree, was the discovery announced in 1998 that the universe’s expansion is accelerating rather than slowing down. This discovery wasn’t made with HST alone, ground based telescopes were also involved. (A nice explanation of how one tells that the universe’s expansion is accelerating is here.) This discovery tells us something about the fate of the universe; it suggests that the universe will not eventually reverse its expansion and end in a Big Crunch, but will expand forever, getting ever colder and emptier in an sempiternal black oblivion. (Suggests, but does not prove—it could be that the expansion will stop Kick Ass (2010) accelerating and start decelerating and even reverse at some point.)
So, all hail the Hubble space telescope! Enjoy the view: