2020 is the 30th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope. It was a joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency.
The Hubble is a “reflector” telescope. It uses curved mirrors to reflect light to form an image.
The idea of a reflector telescope was part of the work done by Sir Isaac Newton around the study of optics. Not only are we still using his 300-year old laws of motion to launch rockets into space, but we are also still using his ideas to peer into the universe.
At the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the Hubble, NASA released this picture:
It’s a picture of the Galaxy UGC 2885. Not a very sexy name, but since there is no universal convention for naming galaxies, they just get cataloged. Seems there is a large creative gap in the space community.
UGC 2885 is so magnificent that it is hard to get our little human pea brain around it.
- It’s a spiral galaxy, just like our own Milky Way and is actually the largest spiral galaxy in the local or known universe. Nature has an affinity for spirals (a subject for the future).
- It’s about 232 million light-years from Earth. Light years are measurements of distance in relation to time. To give you some perspective –
- The Moon is 239,000 miles from Earth
- Our neighbor Mars sits about 195,000,000 miles away.
- A single light-year is about 6 trillion miles. That makes UGC 2885 a mind-boggling 1,392 trillion miles from home.
- We are seeing UGC 2885 from the distant past. It takes light 37,200 years to go one light-year. So the light from UGC 2885 left 8, 630,400 years ago.
- UGC 2885 is a whopping 2.5 times wider than the Milky Way
- It is estimated that UGC 2885 has 10 X’s the number of stars in the Milky Way and we have an estimated 250 billion of those twinkly things!
This is just the first of a grand list of amazing celebrations of the cosmos planned for the Hubble’s anniversary. So just sit back and allow your mind to wander past the simple boundaries or our “pale blue dot.”