For 27 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering some of the most breathtaking images of deep space that we've ever seen. It was launched on April 24, 1990, and was named after the American astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). Hubble was the perfect man to name this telescope after—they have both changed how humans see the universe.
Hubble the astronomer helped to prove that there were galaxies beyond the Milky Way. He also gave proof that the universe was expanding, or growing (today, this is known as "Hubble's Law").
Meanwhile, Hubble the space telescope has spent its life taking pictures of the distant galaxies that Hubble the astronomer first told us about. Its pictures, such as this one of the Crab Nebula, are world famous.
Brand new birthday pics!
Now to help celebrate its 27 years, NASA has released this awesome picture of NGC 4302 and NGC 4298 (that's it at the top of this post). These two spiral galaxies might not be household names, but they offer us a look at how the Milky Way might appear from the outside.
The really cool part of this picture is how one galaxy is perfectly side-on, while the other gives us a view from the top. It gives us a more complete example of how spiral galaxies look. You can even see a bright blue patch near the bottom of NGC 4302 (on the left). NASA believes that is an area with brand new star formation. Cool!
And for a better idea of just how far away the Hubble can see, check out this picture of the two galaxies.
Can you spot them? They're right there, in the lower middle of picture. Happy Birthday, Hubble! You're one remarkable machine!