CNN Technology

Hubble telescope now open for public viewing

smoke

September 25, 1995
Web posted: 11:25 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Lisa Price

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Remember the troubled Hubble space telescope? Finally, its star has risen, and members of the public are seeing for the first time what only astronomers could see before.

Rings

They are seeing dramatic pictures -- stars being born, asteroids actually rotating, black holes with gravity so strong that nothing pulled in can escape -- including light.

"I think it's the final piece in a line of clues that tell us black holes are out there," says Douglas Duncan of Chicago's Adler Planetarium. "...it's just like Einstein says, space can be warped, distorted, and become a black hole." (187K AIFF sound or 374K WAV sound)

Astronomers and the public alike marvel at what they see.

star

"It was astonishing, really, because you don't realize the expanse and the vastness of the universe," said one awed viewer.

But the big picture was pretty hazy when the $1.6 billion space telescope was first launched in 1990. It didn't work. Three years later, $629 million was spent to fix it. Now, NASA officials reject accusations they are showing off Hubble's pretty pictures in order to restore credibility to the Hubble program.

observer

"If we inspire even 10,0000, or 100,000 kids to work a little harder, to take school more seriously or science more seriously that's the real value," said NASA's Ed Weiler. "That's where the real value is, not just the science."

The science may come in telling us not just about the past, and the present, but the future. Red giant stars? Astronomers believe the sun will one day take on a similar shape because it's losing its energy.

Red star

"The sun is going to swell up into something called a red giant star" says Duncan. "...It will swallow up Mercury, Venus and possibly even swallow up the Earth." (119K AIFF sound or 238K WAV sound)

But it's not time to invest in heat-proof shelters -- astronomers say the Hubble pictures show that "big" event won't happen for another four billion years.


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