Today is the 30th anniversary of an important if not technically perfect image: the first picture ever taken from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble went into orbit in April 1990 with high expectations that a giant, space-based telescope would be able to take the sharpest photos of space ever taken, far more crisp than the ones taken from telescopes on Earth.
Hubble took its first picture May 20th, 1990, a picture of a binary star with the serial number-ish name of HD96755.
The good news was that the picture was clearer than a similar photo taken from a ground telescope.
But after billions of dollars and years of delays, it wasn’t really that much clearer.
The engineers set to work adjusting the settings on Hubble’s optical system, but eventually they realized the problem wasn’t the settings: it was a hardware problem.
There was something wrong with the mirror that was supposed to direct light into Hubble’s sensors.
The anomaly was only a fraction of the width of a single hair, but it was enough to make for blurry photos.
The only way to fix the telescope was what’s called a “service mission” – that is, sending astronauts up to do spacewalks so they could install new parts that essentially served as glasses for the faulty mirror.
After that, Hubble’s photos weren’t just clear, they were spectacular – and useful, too: they’ve helped us better gauge the age of the universe, understand dark matter, and spot thousands of galaxies and planets far beyond our solar system.
And inspired more than a few album covers, I’d bet.
Today is World Bee Day, and so we wrap up with the story of an Irish bee enthusiast who’s been at home the last two months, and spent that time building a beehive out of LEGO.
It’s now home to 30,000 bees.
And if he wants more, I suppose he could just add more bricks, right?
How Fixing the Hubble Spacecraft Works (How Stuff Works)