The Hubble Space Telescope was launched April 24, 1990, from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, aboard the space shuttle Discovery. NASA calls Hubble the "most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope." Hubble has given us new, better views of our solar system and has taken us hundreds of light years away to the edge of the universe.
Hubble has given us many images of our neighbor Mars. This image was taken in 2003 when Mars made its closest approach in nearly 60,000 years. On August 27, 2003, the two worlds were only 34.6 million miles apart from center to center. By contrast, Mars can be about 249 million miles away from Earth.
Hubble snapped this image in 2007 of Ganymede appearing to peek out from beneath Jupiter. Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and it's even bigger than Mercury.
Hubble captured this image of Saturn in 2004, a view so sharp that some of the planet's smaller rings are visible.
Hubble tracked clouds on Uranus in this image taken in 1997. The image is a composite of three near-infrared images. The planet's rings are prominent in the near infrared. Eight of Uranus' 27 moons can be seen in both images. Uranus is about 1.75 billion miles from Earth.
Hubble captured this image of the distant blue-green world Neptune in 2005. Fourteen different colored filters were used to help scientists learn more about Neptune's atmosphere. Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles from Earth.
Hubble discovered four of Pluto's five moons. In 2005: Nix and Hydra were found. Hubble discovered Kerberos in 2011 and Styx in 2012. The new discoveries joined Pluto's large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978. Styx was found by scientists using Hubble to search for potential hazards for the New Horizons spacecraft which will fly by Pluto in July 2015. Pluto is about 2.9 billion miles from Earth.
The Orion Nebula is 1,500 light years from Earth located in Orion's Belt in the constellation Orion. It's one of the brightest nebulae and on a clear, dark night -- it's visible to the naked eye. The nebula is Earth's nearest star-forming region.
The iconic Horsehead Nebula is a favorite target for astronomers. Look carefully and you'll see what looks like the head of horse rising into the stars. This Hubble image captures the nebula in infrared wavelengths. The nebula is 1,600 light years from Earth.
The Cat's Eye Nebula is a bunch of glowing gases kicked out into space by a dying star. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows details of structures including jets of high-speed gas and unusual knots of gas. This color picture is a composite of three images taken at different wavelengths. The nebula is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It's about 3,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Draco.
The Bug, or Butterfly Nebula looks like a butterfly with its wings stretching across the galaxy. It's actually a cloud of roiling gas shed by a dying star. Scientists say the gas is more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit and is expanding into space at more than 600,000 miles an hour. This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, a camera installed on Hubble during its May 2009 upgrade by shuttle astronauts. The nebula is about 3,800 light years away in the constellation Scorpius.
Astronomers combined several Hubble images taken in 2014 to create an upgraded view of the Hubble's iconic 1995 "Pillars of Creation" image. The new image shows a wider view of the pillars, which stretch about 5 light-years high. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, which is about 6,500 light years from Earth.
This huge nebula is 7,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Carina. It's one of the largest and brightest nebulas and is a nursery for new stars. It also has several stars estimated to be at least 50 to 100 times the mass of our Sun, including Eta Carinae, one of the brightest stars known and one of the most massive stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
One of the closest neighbors to our own Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, can be seen with the naked eye if you know where to look on a clear, dark night. In 2012, scientists using data from Hubble predicted Andromeda would collide with the Milky Way in about four billion years. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from Earth.
The Cigar Galaxy is 12 million light years away. It gets its name from its shape: From Earth it looks like an elongated elliptical disc.
It's called one of the most photogenic galaxies: The Sombrero Galaxy looks like the giant broad rim of a Mexican hat sitting out among the stars. It can be spotted using a small telescope. It's about 28 million light years from Earth.
This group of galaxies is about 290 million light years from Earth. It's named for its discoverer, French astronomer Edouard Stephan, who first spotted it in 1877.
Hubble captured this image of a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The bigger galaxy has a center disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the pull from its partner below.
In 2004, astronomers unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken to date. Called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, the million-second-long exposure shows the first galaxies to emerge shortly after the Big Bang. The image shows an estimated 10,000 galaxies. In 2012, astronomers assembled an upgraded image called the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field. It combined 10 years of Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. The new image contains about 5,500 galaxies.