The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990 by space shuttle Discovery, orbits the earth about 380 miles above us. It uses two cameras and two spectrographs to record images of space. Hubble's pictures have delighted scientists and star gazers for more than a decade, but now its future is in peril. In January of this year, NASA canceled an upcoming service mission, choosing to let Hubble degrade and die. Here's a look at Hubble's achievements, and how Hubble aficionados are trying to save it.
"Like any telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has a long tube that is open at one end. It has mirrors to gather and bring the light to a focus where its 'eyes' are located. The HST has several types of 'eyes' in the form of various instruments. Just like some animals can see various types of light, such as ultraviolet light (e.g. insects) or visible light (e.g. humans), the HST must also be able to see the various types of light raining down from the heavens." How Stuff Works presents an outstanding seven-page history of the Hubble, a look inside the telescope, and an explanation of how it works.
"Not since Galileo turned his telescope towards the heavens in 1610 has any event so changed our understanding of the universe as the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope." This official NASA site is everything you'd expect it to be: well organized and complete. Best clicks are Science Highlights (such as Proof of Black Holes and Quasars), Observation Updates (what Hubble is looking at now), Image Gallery (including animations), and FAQ (great place to start a school report.) Use the Site Map to find all these treasures.
There is lots of great science at this site published by the Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach , but what caught my eye was Fun & Games. These games are still educational, of course, but much more interactive. For example, construct a scale model of the HST with parts from your local hardware store, or build a galaxy (or comet) in your browser. On the same page, don't miss the link to Amazing Space, which includes guides for educators.
The best Hubble clicks at Space.com are the multimedia clips, and the Hubble Health Report which predicts that without repair, the Hubble has three to four years left. My favorite clips are those titled Space TV because like television news features, they include narration. The image animations are spectacular to see, but without narration they are less educational.