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Hubble's Amazing Universe Facts

Dr Mario Livio is a senior astrophysicist and Head of the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the institute which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope.


  • Hubble Space Telescope is the first space telescope, orbiting nearly 650 kilometers high in the sky, racing around the Earth every 97 minutes.

  • The 12-ton Hubble telescope, as big as a school bus, is slowly spiralling toward the earth.

  • Picture data comes in from Hubble telescope in black and white. Image experts assign colours to these images according to the chemical elements detected by Hubble’s instruments.

  • Hubble will eventually be replaced by the James Webb Telescope, which will literally go beyond Hubble; placed beyond the moon, poised in delicate balance among the gravitational tugs of the Earth, Moon and Sun.

  • Hunble captured images of the Eagle Nebula some 6,500 light-years away. These photos show three gigantic pillars made of gas and dust. Hubble enabled astronomers to see for the first time that each pillar is dotted with small clumps of gas – known as Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs). The image reveals that forming inside some of the EGGs are embryonic stars.

  • Flattened discs of gas and dust that hatch from the EGGs are called proto planetary discs or proplyds. One day these discs will be become so hot that nuclear fusion begins and a star is born.

  • The formation of stars has a by-product, smaller clumps that remain in orbit around the newborn star and survive the solar wind. These are new planets. This is the genesis of a new solar system.

  • In the Carina Nebula, Hubble reveals a place where stars are born and where at least one star is about to die. As a star runs out of fuel, its outer layers expand, until the gravity of the star can no longer hold them. Eventually, they are released into space. As these outer layers of a star expand, they leave behind a searing hot ball of solidified oxygen and carbon, astronomers call a “white dwarf”.

  • In the far future the sun will evolve into a giant red star swelling to a hundred times its present size. On earth, the oceans will evaporate; the temperature of the surface of our planet will rise to over a thousand degrees. All life on earth will perish. A wall of fire will sweep over the earth through our solar system and out into space. Our sun will mark the place of its death with a splash of color.

  • The bigger the star, the shorter its life span, and the more violent its ending. Such an explosion is called a supernova. Not every kind of star can explode as a supernova.

  • During the blast of a supernova, the inner core of the star collapses into a single point. Astronomers call this point a “singularity.” Theory describes this as an object with no length, width or height—yet it possesses most of the gravity of the original star.

  • The Crab Nebula is the expanding wreckage from a supernova that occurred in the year 1054, and was first recorded by ancient Chinese astronomers. Hubble is able to track the expanding debris from this supernova is moving into space at nearly 5 million kilometers per hour.

  • Almost all of the elements in the universe from the gold on a wedding ring to the calcium in our bones was created in a supernova.

  • Nearly all of the elements in the universe heavier than hydrogen and helium are made by stars. Hubble’s supreme resolution confirms that the filaments in the Crab Nebula are laden with such heavy elements.

  • Hubble has shown us the Eta Carina star, which appears to have about a hundred times the mass of the sun. The more massive a star is the hotter it is, and the surface of the star is so hot that it cannot even hold onto its own gas. Eta Carina is a young star, maybe one million years old. Yet because of its huge mass, the star is unstable and will not survive for long.

  • When Eta Carina explodes in a supernova it will be almost as bright as the full moon – concentrating an incredible amount of light into a point in our sky.

  • After millions of years of shining bright, it takes a few seconds to destroy the star.

  • Every star is carefully balanced between the inward pull of its own gravity and the outward pressure of the heat it generates from nuclear fusion.

  • A black hole is leftover from the blast of a supernova. The black hole beings with a very large star – at least four times bigger than our sun. When the a star explodes in a supernova, the core collapse on itself and the gravitational field right around it is so strong that not even light can escape from it

  • A black hole is originally a theoretical idea the modern form of which comes from Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes how gravity works.

  • If you take matter and you make it massive enough and dense enough, the gravity will be so strong you will create a region of space that light can’t get out of. It truly does make a hole in space.

  • Although black holes are invisible, their influence upon their surroundings gives them away.

  • Imaging from Hubble telescope including star patterns at the centre of galaxies proved Einstein’s theory of the existence of black holes is true.

  • Dark Matter is a vast cosmic glue that binds galaxies and has been around since the beginning. The Hubble Space Telescope confirmed the existence of Dark Matter, and its Cosmos survey is the actual 3D plot of Dark Matter, charted for the first time in history.

  • Clouds of Dark Matter are where stars and galaxies are born, as Dark Matter has gravity that pulls ordinary matter toward it.

  • There is nearly 6 times more matter in the universe than physical matter we commonly experience every day. Although, even if you combine the amount of physical matter with the amount of Dark Matter found in the universe, it only accounts for less than one third of all the material in the Universe.

  • According to Hubble’s evidence, the universe is expanding more and more quickly. This may be caused by an unseen force that would be called “Dark Energy,” is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.