Launched on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope prepares to mark its 28th anniversary as the first major optical telescope in outer space, where it has provided an unobstructed view of our universe, showing us distant stars and galaxies.
Named after American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, whose findings about our expanding universe were the foundation for the big-bang theory, the 43.5-foot long telescope sent back its very first image on May 20, 1990. Today, the solar-powered eye-in-the-sky orbits Earth at 17,000 mph and transmits back 150 gigabits of raw science data each week. It has made more than 1.3 million observations during the course of its mission.
To photograph far-away galaxies the way it does, Hubble must be very steady and accurate. According to NASA, its pointing accuracy is .007 arcseconds -- the equivalent of being able to hit President Roosevelt's head on a dime using a laser beam 200 miles away.
In honor of Hubble's birthday, NASA released breathtaking photos of the heart of the Lagoon Nebula: a massive stellar nursery 4,000 light years away. The images show a giant young star that is 200,000 times brighter than the Sun and 32 times more massive. According to NASA, the star (Herschel 36) is causing ultraviolet radiation and "hurricane-like stellar winds" that are creating a stunning visual display.
Check out the photos below! [CLICK HERE FOR HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES