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What Is the Hubble Space Telescope? (Grades K-4)

This article is for students grades K-4.

The large silver Hubble Space Telescope orbits above Earth

What Is the Hubble Space Telescope?

The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space. NASA launched Hubble in 1990. Hubble is as long as a large school bus. It weighs as much as two adult elephants. Hubble travels around Earth at about 5 miles per second. That is as fast as driving a car from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast in 10 minutes.

Hubble faces toward space. It takes pictures of planets, stars and galaxies. Hubble has seen stars being born. Hubble has seen stars die. It has seen galaxies that are trillions of miles away. Hubble also has seen comet pieces crash into the gases above Jupiter.

Scientists have learned a lot about space from Hubble pictures. The pictures are beautiful to look at too.

A photograph of a galaxy taken by Hubble

What Makes Hubble Different From Telescopes on Earth?

The mixture of gases that surround a planet is called its atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere changes and blocks some of the light that comes from space. Hubble flies around, or orbits, high above Earth and its atmosphere. So, Hubble can see space better than telescopes on Earth can. Hubble is not the kind of telescope that you look through with your eye.  Hubble uses a digital camera. It takes pictures like a cell phone. Then Hubble uses radio waves to send the pictures through the air back to Earth.

Where Did the Name Hubble Come From?

Hubble is named after Edwin P. Hubble. He was an astronomer. An astronomer is a scientist who studies the planets, stars and space. Edwin P. Hubble made important discoveries about the universe in the early 1900s.

What Is NASA Learning From the Hubble Space Telescope?

Hubble has helped scientists learn about our solar system. The telescope observes comets and planets. Hubble even discovered moons around Pluto that had not been seen before. The telescope has helped scientists understand how planets and galaxies form. Galaxies contain billions of stars. A picture called “Hubble Ultra Deep Field” shows some of the farthest galaxies ever seen. Pictures from Hubble help scientists learn more about the whole universe. Because of Hubble pictures, scientists think the universe is almost 14 billion years old.

Hubble has spotted black holes. Black holes suck in everything around them. They even suck in light. And Hubble has helped scientists learn more about explosions that happen when huge stars burn out.

Hundreds of different colored galaxies in space

What Is the Future for Hubble?

In 2009, astronauts flew to Hubble on the space shuttle. This was the fifth time astronauts went to fix Hubble. They put new parts and cameras in the telescope. So, it is working very well. Hubble will not be fixed again. In 2020, Hubble turned 30 years old. It still takes beautiful pictures of objects in space.

NASA is building another space telescope. It is called the James Webb Space Telescope. It will be bigger than Hubble. Webb will not orbit Earth as Hubble does. Webb will orbit the sun in a spot on the other side of the moon. The Webb telescope will be able to see a different kind of light than the light Hubble sees. Webb will help NASA see even more of the universe.

Where Can I See More Hubble Pictures?

HubbleSite Image Gallery 

More About the Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Crafts and Activities
What Is a Black Hole?
What Was the Space Shuttle?

Read What Is the Hubble Space Telescope? (Grades 5-8)