Hubble Space Telescope's Most Spectacular Images

The Hubble Space Telescope's stunning high-resolution images have changed our understanding of the cosmos.
01 Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant
Hubble Space Telescope's Most Spectacular Images NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Launched nearly 28 years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our understanding of the cosmos, allowing us to calculate the age of the universe and the rate at which it is expanding. Hubble has allow us to peer back to almost the origins of the universe, to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.

Its stunning high-resolution images have given scientists a clearer understanding of the nature and prevalence of black holes, as well as the mysterious dark energy that permeates space.

Hubble was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990 and paced into orbit around the Earth at an altitude of about 340 miles, beyond the distorting effects of the atmosphere. However, it quickly became apparent that the telescope's primary mirror had been been polished to the wrong shape during manufacturing, resulting in a blurry "eyesight." In a series of Space Shuttle missions, astronauts managed to correct Hubble's vision with replacement parts.

Hubble whizzes around the Earth at a speed of about 17,000 mph, completing an orbit every 95 minutes. Over the last 28 years, Hubble has traveled more than four billion miles and taken over a million observations. It is about the size of a school bus and weighs about the same as two adult male African elephants. Its main mirror is seven feet 10.5 inches across and so finely polished that if, it was scaled to the diameter of the Earth, no bump would be more than six inches high.

Hubble could carry on operating until at least 2030. Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled for launch in May 2020. It will be positioned further away from Earth, ensuring there'll be even less thermal and optical interference from the Earth and the Moon.

In this Newsweek gallery, we look at 60 of Hubble's most spectacular images. The image above shows the Veil Nebula, the expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago. The entire nebula is 110 light years across and about 2,100 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. These wisps of gas are all that remain of what was once a star 20 times more massive than the Sun.

Click through the slideshow to see more amazing images.

The so-called Cat's Eye Nebula—formally cataloged NGC 6543—looks like the eye of Sauron from the film "The Lord of the Rings”. One of the first planetary nebulae to be discovered, it is also one of the most complex. A planetary nebula forms when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers. NGC 6543 has surprisingly intricate structures, including concentric gas shells, jets of high-speed gas, and shock-induced knots of gas, with a bull's eye pattern of eleven or even more concentric rings, or shells, around the Cat's Eye. NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)