Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

Hubble Space Telescope
Credit: NASA/HST

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was the first telescope to observe from space. It is designed to work above the disruptive effects of the atmosphere and orbits 600 km (372 miles) above the Earth's surface. It was launched by NASA's space shuttle in 1990 and has been maintained and serviced by repeat shuttle visits ever since.


Some facts about the telescope:

  • Observatory location: In orbit around the Earth
  • Altitude: 600 km (372 miles)
  • Mass: 11,600 kg
  • Mirror diameter: 2.4 metres
  • Launch date: 24th April 1990

Being above the Earth's atmosphere ensures that the light coming from space is not disturbed as it enters the telescope. This results in very sharp and detailed images. On Earth, telescopes are sited high up on mountain tops where there is much less disturbance of the air than we find closer to sea level.

Remnants of a dying star
Credit: NASA/HST

Over the decades, the HST has captured many dramatic and sometimes eerie pictures, such as this stunning picture of a 1,000 year old planetary nebula in the process of casting off the outer layers of its dying atmosphere. The stark colours in this image are a fossil record of the ongoing release of huge amounts of energy and material.