Image: NASA; ESA; G. Bacon, STScI
If good design means longevity, Hubble is well on its way to redeeming the missteps that required high-tech space missions for vision correction before it could serve its purpose. Could it be a coinicidence that Hubble took its millionth look into the depths of space on the 4th of July, America's Independence holiday? Well, probably not, but it is a beautiful milestone on any day for the 21 year old mission that shares its data with scientists over the internet. Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, on space shuttle's Discovery's STS-31 mission piloted by Charles Bolden, now a NASA Administrator. Bolden remarks: "For 21 years Hubble has been the premier space science observatory, astounding us with deeply beautiful imagery and enabling ground-breaking science across a wide spectrum of astronomical disciplines. The fact that Hubble met this milestone while studying a faraway planet is a remarkable reminder of its strength and legacy."
The lucky planet is HAT-P-7b, shown in an artist's rendition above. Hubble's millionth observation records the spectral signatures of the gas giant HAT-P-7b, a planet larger than Jupiter orbiting a star hotter than our sun. Scientists are looking for indications of water vapor in the planet's atmosphere.
All of the data collected by Hubble, over 50 terabytes of data, is available to scientists and students at the Hubble Legacy Archive. Whether looking deep into space to answer questions from evolution to geo-engineering, or just reminding us how comfy our tiny, blue earth keep us, a million Hubble hits are cause for celebration. May there be a million more.