Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope from the Kennedy Space Center. Hubble has had an unusually long life for a telescope, mostly due to the five space shuttle missions that were sent up to repair and improve it between 1993 and 2009. Unfortunately Hubble’s storied career may soon be coming to a close. NASA hopes to keep the telescope operational through the 2020s while it is slowly phased out and replaced by the James Webb Telescope, which has not yet been launched. For now, Hubble continues to send down the awe inspiring starscapes that it is known for. As a NASA scientist wrote,

Hubble is revolutionizing modern astronomy, not only for scientists, but also by taking the public on a wondrous journey of exploration and discovery. Hubble’s never-ending, breathtaking celestial snapshots provide a visual shorthand for Hubble’s top scientific achievements. Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging and accessible for people of all ages. The space telescope’s iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.

Indeed, during its 30 year lifetime Hubble has provided the evidence to fuel more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers. For many of us, Hubble is the very picture of astronomy. Most of the iconic space images from the last thirty years were taken by the Hubble telescope, which likely means that whenever you think of the stars you have Hubble to thank for the inspiration. The image featured here was released by NASA on April 24th, Hubble’s official birthday. Although it is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef” for its undersea appearance it actually depicts a nebula where gases are known to condense and eventually form new stars. Even when so many of our everyday lives have been turned upside down here on Earth, NASA’s oldest space telescope is still floating up above the clouds sending us pictures of stars being born. Happy birthday Hubble.

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