The year 2020 marks a very important moment in the history of space exploration, with the Hubble Space Telescope celebrating its thirtieth birthday.
Yup. One of the most famous objects ever to be sent out into orbit has been going strong for 30 years, capturing countless breathtaking sights. Talk about making the rest of us feel unaccomplished.
To celebrate this important anniversary, NASA is giving star gazers across the world the opportunity to find out what the telescope saw on their own birthday.
All you have to do is select the month and date of your birthday on the NASA website, and you can find out what extraordinary things were going on in the universe while you were cutting your cake.
Many are sharing their results on Twitter and Instagram using #Hubble30, and the results are – quite literally – out of this world.
For example, on my ninth birthday, Hubble spotted NGC 1999, a reflection nebula that doesn’t emit any visible light on its own but ‘shines only because the light from the star just to the left of the center illuminates the nebula’s dust’.
Of course, at the time I was completely unaware of such goings on, and was only interested in zooming around on my new micro scooter. However, it’s kind of cool to look back and realise how many secrets of the universe have been unravelled at the same time as ordinary moments in your own life.
Described as being the approximate size of a school bus, the Hubble telescope was originally launched in 1990, and has since made more than 1.4 million observations of numerous stars, planets and galaxies.
Speeding around Earth at a breezy 27,000 kilometres per hour (17,000mph), according to ScienceAlert, this telescope can point towards faraway objects with the accuracy of a laser beam directed towards one particular detail of a coin placed around 320 kilometres away (200 miles).
The telescope is even able to observe events that happened in the unimaginably distant past – looking at occurrences that took place 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.
According to the NASA website:
Hubble explores the universe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means it has observed some fascinating cosmic wonder every day of the year, including on your birthday.
Examples shared on social media include images of the stars at the galactic core, and gorgeous shots of Jupiter.
You can check out the NASA birthday tool for yourself here.
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