The Hubble Space Telescope is named after one of the preeminent astronomers of the last century, Edwin Hubble. This six minute video takes us on a journey through the life and times of the namesake of one of the most significant scientific instruments ever built.
The famous Hubble Space Telescope marks 25 years of observations in April 2015, and that anniversary is in part being celebrated in a new series of educational videos created by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) of Baltimore, Maryland, who manages Hubble on behalf of NASA. The second video in the series is called “The Original Hubble.”
The “Original Hubble” video provides a quick glimpse at the life of Edwin Hubble, the astronomer the famous telescope is named after. The video provides an overview of Edwin Hubble’s life from his birth in 1889 in Missouri to his education and transformation in his career path that led to a fascination with the cosmos.
While pursuing his doctorate, Hubble gained employment at the Mount Wilson Observatory, the world’s largest telescope at the time. Don Nicholson, a 94-year-old docent at the Mt. Wilson Observatory met the famous scientist when his father worked at the observatory in the 1930s and 1940s. Nicholson spoke about meeting Hubble. “He saw the changes that were going on in astronomy and that opened his eyes,” Nicholson said. “He got interested in it and the interest became pretty consuming.”
The video covers Hubble’s focus on interstellar clouds of dust and glowing gasses, and his 1923 discovery of the first variable star in the Andromeda Nebula, now known as the Andromeda galaxy, and that the star could be used to calculate its distance from Earth. He applied the same technique to other spiral nebulae and discovered that our universe extends far beyond our local Milky Way. Hubble also found the universe was expanding and the rate in which it is occurring, was later coined “the Hubble Constant.” That expansion became the foundation of the “Big Bang.”
“I think having the Hubble Space Telescope really seals the fame for Edwin Hubble. It does keep his name in the forefront and it helps him to be one of those people that really gets remembered from the 20th Century,” said Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This segment looks at the state of astronomy before Hubble and the difficulties of observing from the ground that drove the need for a space telescope. Astronomers instrumental in the Hubble project in the 60s and 70s reflect on how the design of the telescope was forced to evolve because methods used by ground-based observatories weren’t practical in space.