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Hubble Space Telescope

            The forty-three and a half foot long, twelve ton, one and a half billion dollar Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit on April 24,1990 (Macchetto, p. 125). The Hubble Space Telescope or HST has been the best way to look far into the universe ever since then. Ground-based telescopes will never be able to see clearly into the universe, because the atmospheric turbulence scatters light (NASA, p. 6). .
             When the Hubble Space Telescope was launched it was poised to open a new era in astronomy. Within a few months, however, a flaw was discovered in Hubble's main mirror that significantly reduced the telescope's ability to focus. Program and project officials developed a plan to take advantage of the Telescope's instruments that were not affected by the flaw, such as, ultraviolet and spectrographic observations. Eventually it was found that the problem could be resolved by using the effect of computer processing to remove spherical aberrations (NASA, p. 5). .
             By using computer processing, the HST was still able to perform two of its three capabilities, including high angular resolution and ultraviolet performance. It did not have the capability of high sensitivity to detect very faint objects, because too much light is scattered and computer processing did not improve image quality (NASA. p. 10). Images of objects such as stars, planets and galaxies were blurred. On relatively bright objects, Hubble's cameras were still able to provide images far superior to any telescope on the ground. However, the high sensitivity problem was fixed by the first shuttle mission to the telescope in 1993. .
             Even during its first three years of operation, Hubble provided significant new information and discoveries about the universe, including astonishing images of Supernova 1987A and a disk of cold gas fueling a black hole (Smith, pp. 28-34). The images of space have had an important impact on the world, because it has spurred interest in science and solved many mysteries of the universe.

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