PLANET HUGGER

Photos: Hubble and the Earth, in honor of the telescope’s 25 years in orbit

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Hubble Earth

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. It’s a day intended to reinforce the environmental movement, and to honor—and admire—the planet we call home.

As it happens, this is also the week of the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, one of Earth’s greatest scientific creations. Twenty-five is ancient in satellite-years, and the grizzled veteran telescope is about ready to hang up its boots.

With its parts degrading and its orbit decaying, NASA must figure out a way to safely decommission Hubble. It will either launch a mechanism into space to rendezvous with the telescope and usher it back to Earth, or propel it deeper into space, where it will float on in perpetual loneliness. We prefer the first scenario.

Hubble can take photos of pretty much everything in our universe except the Earth. It was designed to snap photos of distant objects, which requires a very long exposure time. According to the Hubble website, the telescope’s shortest possible exposure time is 0.1 seconds, and in that span it travels nearly half a mile in Earth’s orbit. So even if the lens were pointed at Earth, the resulting image would not be decipherable.

But other satellites and astronauts flying nearby have taken incredible photos of Hubble with Earth as its backdrop. They allow us to glimpse at the most important telescope ever made with the planet that created it.

This still photo image taken May 13, 2009 and made available May 14, 2009 shows the Hubble Space Telescope after its' grapple by the space shuttle Atlantis's robot arm.     REUTERS/NASA/Handout (SCI TECH IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTXGS5T
(NASA)
NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, STS-125 mission specialist, is pictured as he peers through a window on the aft flight deck of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis during the mission's fourth spacewalk to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope on May 17, 2009. During the eight-hour, two-minute spacewalk, Massimino and astronaut Michael Good (background), mission specialist, continued repairs and improvements to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) that will extend the Hubble's life into the next decade.  REUTERS/NASA/Handout  (UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENT SCI TECH) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTXJJ1C
(NASA)
In this image provided by NASA/JSC, astronauts Steven L. Smith and John M. Grunsfeld are photographed during an extravehicular activity (EVA) during the December 1999 Hubble servicing mission of STS-103, flown by Discovery. The Hubble Space Telescope, one of NASA'S crowning glories, marks its 25th anniversary on Friday, April 24, 2015. With more than 1 million observations, including those of the farthest and oldest galaxies ever beholden by humanity, no man-made satellite has touched as many minds or hearts as Hubble. (NASA/JSC via AP)
(NASA)
In this April 25, 1990 photograph provided by NASA, most of the giant Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae. This was among the first photos NASA released on April 30 from the five-day STS-31 mission.  The Hubble Space Telescope, one of NASA'S crowning glories, marks its 25th anniversary on Friday, April 24, 2015. With more than 1 million observations, including those of the farthest and oldest galaxies ever beholden by humanity, no man-made satellite has touched as many minds or hearts as Hubble.  (NASA via AP)
(NASA)
(NASA)
(NASA)
(NASA)

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