Hubble Science Discoveries Timeline

The Hubble Space Telescope mission transformed the field of astronomy, and its continued scientific discoveries have completely changed our understanding of the universe.

illustration of Hubble


May 20, 1990 First image taken

The “first light” image from Hubble was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera to assist in focusing the telescope. The image illustrated Hubble’s improved resolution compared to ground-based observatories, showing that its images were roughly 50 percent sharper than ground-based images.

Two black and white images. Left is ground based image, the right is a Hubble image.
Even accounting for the aberration in Hubble's mirror, the space telescope's image (right) offers more clarity than what was generally possible with ground-based observations (left). Astronauts installed new equipment that successfully addressed the mirror aberration on Hubble during a 1993 mission.
E. Persson (Las Campanas Observatory, Chile)/Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Right: NASA, ESA and STScI

August 29, 1990 Supernova 1987A ring resolved

In one of the telescope’s first science results, Hubble observed the remnants of Supernova 1987A, as shared in a press release issued on August 29, 1990. In unprecedented detail, Hubble revealed characteristics in a shell of material surrounding the supernova.

Just left of image center is a pink spot. It is ringed by a yellow-green oval. To its left is a bright-blue spot, another sits to the far right edge.
In unprecedented detail, Hubble revealed characteristics in a shell of material surrounding supernova 1987A.
ESA/Hubble & NASA

October 1, 1990First Hubble science paper submitted

The first science paper produced from Hubble observations was submitted by Tod Lauer of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. The paper reported observations of the environment around a suspected black hole in the core of galaxy NGC 7457.

Left: a faint grey haze against a black background. Right: A large, bright-grey, oval surrounded by a fainter grey haze
The center of galaxy NGC 7457, shown with different contrast levels


January 16, 1991Accurate distance measured to neighboring galaxy

Hubble observations from 1990 that detailed the remnants of Supernova 1987A also provided an unexpected bonus: an accurate determination of the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way and the supernova’s galactic home. The distance was measured at 169,000 light-years, within a five-percent accuracy.

A bright circle in the center of a broken, oval ring.
Supernova 1987A

May 17, 1991Hubble’s first images of Jupiter released

In March 1991, Hubble took its first observations of the planet Jupiter. Released on May 17 of that year, the stills featured the Great Red Spot.

Only a quarter of the planet Jupiter is visible extending from the lower-right corner across the image. Colors of orange, rusty-red, and white bands.
On March 11, 1991, the Wide Field/Planetary Camera on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed Jupiter for the first time. This "true color" picture of the southeast quadrant of the planet shows a striking oval-shaped dark ring on the left and the Great Red Spot just rotating out of view on the right aide. These features are thought to be very large hurricane-like structures where warmer gases carry ammonia ice crystals from deep in the Jovian atmosphere up above the top of the normal cloud layers that shroud Jupiter. Jovian clouds are thought to be colored by small amounts of sulfur, phosphorus and carbon compounds in the ice crystals. This picture has about the same resolution (0.15 arcseconds) as voyager pictures taken 5 days before encounter in 1979. This will allow a continuation of the study of Jovian wind velocities begun by voyager and allow expansion of this program into the ultraviolet and infrared where clouds form at different heights in the atmosphere. The blue and blue-green bands to the right of the edge of Jupiter are artifacts due to the rotation of the planet during the six minutes between the separate blue, green and red exposures used to make the color picture. The Wide Field/Planetary Camera was designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California.


January 13, 1992Chemistry of early universe probed

Astronomers announced that they had detected the rare element boron in an ancient star. This was the first time that astronomers using Hubble had detected elements from the early universe, and this discovery suggested that the element might have been evidence of energetic events that occurred with the birth of our Milky Way galaxy.

Black background filled with stars. A very bright one is at image center.
This is a Digitized Sky Survey image of the oldest star with a well-determined age in our galaxy. The ageing star, catalogued as HD 140283, lies over 190 light-years away. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope was used to narrow the measurement uncertainty on the star's distance, and this helped to refine the calculation of a more precise age of 14.5 billion years (plus or minus 800 million years). The star is rapidly passing through our local stellar neighborhood. The star's orbit carries it through the plane of our galaxy from the galactic halo that has a population of ancient stars. The Anglo-Australian Observatory (AAO) UK Schmidt telescope photographed the star in bluelight.
Digital Sky Survey, STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, UKSTU/AAO

November 19, 1992Material fueling black hole discovered

Hubble observations were released showing a disk of material being pulled into a suspected black hole at the core of NGC 4261, a giant elliptical galaxy located 45 million light-years away.

At the time, black holes were merely theoretical objects with gravitational pulls so strong that not even light could escape it. This theory has since been proven by astronomers.

A disk in orange-red, and yellow-white. A yellow white point at image center surrounded by a deep orange-red disk that is ringed by yellow-white and then more orange-red.
A Hubble Space Telescope image of a giant disk of cold gas and dust fueling a possible black hole at the core of the galaxy. Estimated to be 300 light years across, the disk is tipped enough (about 60 degrees) to provide astronomers with a clear view of its bright hub, which presumably harbors the black hole. The dark, dusty disk represents a cold outer region which extends inwards to an ultra hot accretion disk within a few hundred million miles of the suspected black hole. This disk feeds matter into the black hole, where gravity compresses and heats the material. Some hot gas squirts out from the blackhole's near- vicinity to create the radio jets. The jets are aligned perpendicular to the disk, like an axle through a wheel. This provides strong circumstantial evidence for the existence of a black hole "central" engine in NGC 4261. The image was taken at visible wavelengths with the Wide Field /Planetary Camera in PC mode.
Walter Jaffe/Leiden Observatory, Holland Ford/JHU/STScI, and NASA


June 9, 1993Hubble takes major step in determining universe’s age

Astronomers using Hubble announced that they had determined a much more precise distance to galaxy M81, finding it to be 11 million light-years away. (Previous estimates had ranged from 4.5 million to 18 million light-years away.) Only with precise distance measurements to galaxies can astronomers refine the universe’s expansion rate and, in turn, its age. At the time, the age of the universe was estimated to be between 10 billion and 20 billion years old. (Today its age is estimated to be 13.8 billion years.)

A grid of images, 4 columns and 4 rows. Each image holds clumps of bright-white and dots of green, blue, red, and yellow.
Cepheid variable stars in M81 helped astronomers determine the galaxy’s distance.


January 14, 1994Observations released of massive, unstable star

Hubble observed the star Eta Carinae with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, and its observations were released on January 14, 1994. Eta Carinae is a highly unstable star prone to violent outburst that is 4 million times brighter and 150 times more massive than our Sun. It resides over 10,000 light-years away.

A double-lobed cloud of gas in yellow and pink hues veined with dark dust lanes surrounded by outflows of more reddish-orange-colored gas. Three stars below and to the right of the lobes.
A NASA Hubble Space Telescope "natural color" image of the material surrounding the star Eta Carinae, as imaged by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC-2). The Camera was installed in the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-61 Hubble Servicing Mission. The WFPC-2 optically corrects for the aberration of the telescope's primary minor, restoring the telescope's vision to its originally planned clarity. Eta Carinae has a mass of approximately 150 times that of the sun, and is about 4 million times brighter than our local star, making it one of the most massive and most luminous stars known. Eta Carinae is highly unstable, and prone to violent outbursts. The last of these occurred in 1841, when despite its distance (over 10,000 light years away) Eta Carinae briefly became the second brightest star in the sky. Pre-servicing mission HST observations taken with the WF/PC-1 reveled new detail in the rapidly expanding shell of material which was ejected during the last century's outburst. However, the earlier effects of HST's spherical aberration obscured the structure of the material very near Eta Carinae itself. The clear view of Eta Carinae now provided by WFPC-2 dramatically demonstrates the ability of HST to reliable study faint structures near bright objects. The picture is a combination of three different images taken in red, green, and blue light. The ghostly red outer glow surrounding the star is composed of the very fastest moving of the material which was ejected during the last century's outburst. This material, much of which is moving more than two million miles per hour, is largely composed of nitrogen and other elements formed in the interior of the massive stir, and subsequently ejected into interstellar space. The bright blue-white nebulosity closer in to the star also consists of ejected stellar material. Unlike the outer nebulosity, this material is very dusty and reflects starlight. The new data show that this structure consists of two lobes of material, one of which (lower left) is moving toward us and the other of which (upper right) is moving away. The knots of ejected material have sizes comparable to that of our solar system. Previous models of such bipolar flows predict a dense disk surrounding the star which funnels the ejected material out of the poles of the system. In Eta Carinae, however, high velocity material is spraying out in the same plane as the hypothetical disk, which is supposed to be channeling the flow. This is quite unexpected. The WFPC-2 observations of Eta Carinae raise as many questions as they answer.
NASA, ESA, and J. Hester (Arizona State University)

May 25, 1994Existence of supermassive black holes confirmed

Astronomers reported that Hubble observations confirmed the existence of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. Astronomers had looked at the giant elliptical galaxy M87, located 50 million light-years away from Earth, and found evidence that supported the existence of a gravitationally collapsed object with rapid rotation at its core.

Bright-orange cloud. A bright-yellow point at lower left, from which shoots out a jet of material toward the upper right.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found seemingly conclusive evidence for a massive black hole in the center of the giant elliptical galaxy M87, located 50 million light years away in the constellation Virgo. Earlier observations suggested the black hole was present, but were not decisive. This observation provides very strong support for the existence of gravitationally collapsed objects, which were predicted 80 years ago by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. "If it isn't a black hole, then I don't know what it is," says Dr. Holland Ford of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. "A massive black hole is actually the conservative explanation for what we see in M87. If it's not a black hole, it must be something even harder to understand with our present theories of astrophysics," adds fellow investigator Dr. Richard Harms of the Applied Research Corp. in Landover, Maryland. The discovery is based on velocity measurements of a whirlpool of hot gas that is orbiting around the black hole in the form of a disk. The presence of the disk, discovered in recent Hubble images, allows for an unprecedented, precise measurement of the mass of the object at the hub of the disk.
NASA, Holland Ford (STScI/JHU); Zlatan Tsvetanov, Arthur Davidsen, Gerard Kriss (JHU); Ralph Bohlin, George Hartig (STScI); Richard Harms, Linda Dressel, Ajay K. Kochhar (ARC); and Bruce Margon (UW)

July 16–23, 1994Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter

On July 16, 1994, fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 began to impact Jupiter. For the next several days, Hubble observed the remaining fragments from the comet crashing into Jupiter’s atmosphere and leaving visible, bruise-like marks in the planet’s atmosphere. This was the first time astronomers had witnessed the collision of two astronomical objects.

String of impact scars in the clouds of Jupiter
Eight impacts from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 are visible in this taken in 1994. The smallest features are 124 miles (200 km).
NASA/Hubble Space Telescope Comet Team

November 8, 1994Surface features of Titan resolved

Scientists using Hubble announced that they had produced the first-ever images of surface features on Saturn’s moon Titan. Larger than Mercury but smaller than Mars, Titan has an atmosphere about four times as dense as Earth’s atmosphere, with nitrogen being its primary component.

Four reddish, white, yellow, and maroon globes.
Four global projections of the HST Titan data, separated in longitude by 90 degrees. Upper left: hemisphere facing Saturn. Upper right: leading hemisphere (brightest region). Lower left: the hemisphere which never faces Saturn. Lower right: trailing hemisphere. Not that these assignments assume that the rotation is synchronous. The imaging team says its data strongly support this assumption - a longer time baseline is needed for proof. The surface near the poles is never visible to an observer in Titan's equatorial plane because of the large optical path.
NASA, University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, STScI


February 23, 1995Oxygen found on Europa

Astronomers announced that they had used Hubble to identify the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This was the first time astronomers identified oxygen in the atmosphere of a satellite and only the third object beyond Earth to possess the gaseous element.

Half of Europa is visible. It is a dark, cream-colored world with reddish-brown streaks/cracks in its icy surface.
NASA Galileo, JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

November 2, 1995Star birth seen in the Eagle Nebula

Hubble’s iconic image of towering columns of gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula (M16) was released to the world. The image, nicknamed the Pillars of Creation, shows newborn stars emerging from dense pockets of interstellar gas.

Three dark brown pillars of dust and gas jut out against a greenish background.
One of Hubble’s most iconic images is of this portion of the Eagle Nebula (M16). Dubbed the “Pillars of Creation,” it shows three huge columns of cold gas illuminated by light from a cluster of young stars with strong stellar winds located out of view above. Imbedded in the tips of the finger-like protrusions at the top of the columns are dense, gaseous globules within which stars are being born. The largest of the three columns is approximately four light-years tall.
NASA, ESA, STScI, and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)


January 15, 1996Hubble Deep Field image released

Astronomers released the Hubble Deep Field image, the deepest and most detailed view of the universe at the time. Consisting of 342 separate exposures taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 over ten consecutive days in December 1995, the image contains at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of development. The image represented a small portion of the sky, roughly the size of a dime seen from 75 feet away.

Hundreds of galaxies of all shapes and sizes shining against the dark background of space.
Several hundred never before seen galaxies are visible in this deepest-ever view of the universe, called the Hubble Deep Field, made with NASA Hubble Space Telescope.

January 17, 1996Evidence presented of a planet orbiting star Beta Pictoris

Hubble observations were presented providing strong evidence that a large planet orbits the star Beta Pictoris. Hubble showed that the inner region of dust around the star is unexpectedly warped, which astronomers deduced was caused by the gravitational pull of an unseen planet.

Top: Black and white image of the system. Bottom: False color image of the system.
This image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows for the first time the inner region of a 200-billion mile diameter dust disk around the star Beta Pictoris. This region has long been hidden from ground-based telescopes because of the glare from the central star. The disk is slightly warped. If the warp were there when the star formed, it would long since have flattened out, unless it is produced and maintained by the gravitational pull of a planet. The suspected planet would dwell inside a five-billion mile diameter clear zone inside the inner edge of the disk. Top This is a visible light image of the disk, which appears spindle-like because it is tilted nearly edge-on to our view. The disk is made up of microscopic dust grains of ices and silicate particles, and shines by reflected light from the star. This image indicates that the central clearing is occupied by one or more planets which agglomerated out of the disk and then swept out smaller particles. The bright star, which lies at the center of the disk, is blocked out in this image. Bottom False-color is applied through image processing to accentuate details in the disk structure. Hubble reveals that the pink-white inner edge of the disk is slightly tilted from the plane of the outer disk (red-yellow-green) as identified by a dotted line. A simple explanation is that a large planet is pulling on the disk. It is not possible to see the planet directly because it is close to the star, and perhaps a billion-times fainter. This image was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in January 1995. The star is located 50 light-years away in the southern constellation Pictor (Painter's Easel). Beta Pictoris is a main sequence star, slightly hotter than our Sun.
NASA, ESA, Chris Burrows, J. Krist (STScI), the WFPC2 IDT team

March 7, 1996Pluto’s surface revealed

Astronomers published Hubble images of Pluto, which revealed details on the dwarf planet’s surface for the first time. Hubble’s observations showed brightness variations on the surface that could be topographic features such as basins or impact craters.

Two black and white, mottled spheres.
The never-before-seen surface of the distant planet Pluto is resolved in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures, taken with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Faint Object Camera (FOC) aboard Hubble. Discovered in 1930, Pluto has always appeared as nothing more than a dot of light in even the largest earth-based telescopes because Pluto's disk is much smaller than can be resolved from beneath the Earth's turbulent atmosphere. Pluto is 2/3 the size of Earth's Moon but 1,200 times farther away. Viewing surface detail is as difficult as trying to read the printing on a golf ball located thirty-three miles away! Hubble imaged nearly the entire surface of Pluto, as it rotated through its 6.4-day period, in late June and early July 1994. These images, which were made in blue light, show that Pluto is an unusually complex object, with more large-scale contrast than any planet, except Earth. Pluto itself probably shows even more contrast and perhaps sharper boundaries between light and dark areas than is shown here, but Hubble's resolution (just like early telescopic views of Mars) tends to blur edges and blend together small features sitting inside larger ones. The two smaller inset pictures at the top are actual images from Hubble. North is up. Each square pixel (picture element) is more than 100 miles across. At this resolution, Hubble discerns roughly 12 major "regions" where the surface is either bright or dark. The larger images (bottom) are from a global map constructed through computer image processing performed on the Hubble data. The tile pattern is an artifact of the image enhancement technique. Opposite hemispheres of Pluto are seen in these two views. Some of the variations across Pluto's surface may be caused by topographic features such as basins, or fresh impact craters. However, most of the surface features unveiled by Hubble, including the prominent northern polar cap, are likely produced by the complex distribution of frosts that migrate across Pluto's surface with its orbital and seasonal cycles and chemical byproducts deposited out of Pluto's nitrogen-methane atmosphere. The picture was taken in blue light when Pluto was at a distance of 3 billion miles from Earth.
NASA, ESA, Alan Stern (SWRI), Marc Buie (Lowell Observatory)

January 10, 1996First image of a star's surface released

Astronomers released the first direct image of the surface of a star other than the Sun. The Hubble image showed Betelgeuse, a nearby red supergiant star in the constellation Orion. The observation revealed a huge ultraviolet atmosphere and a mysterious hot spot on the star's surface.

This image has three panels: one on the right, taking up about half the image, and two stacked on the left. In the upper left is a Hubble image of Betelgeuse. The star looks like a glowing ball of yellow light with a bright yellow circle in the center that fades outward to a dark orange. The outer edges appear hazy. Below the image of Betelgeuse are three scale bars. The first shows the size of the star as seen in the Hubble image above. Below that is a scale bar showing the size of Earth’s orbit, which is about a 15% the length of the star’s size. Finally, the last scale bar shows the orbit of Jupiter, which is about 70% as long as the star’s size. The panel on the right shows a black background with many stars of different sizes dotted around the image. The stars of Orion are called out with light white lines drawn between the major stars. An arrow points to one star at the upper left, the location of Betelgeuse.
This is the first direct image of a star other than the Sun, made with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Called Alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, it is a red supergiant star marking the shoulder of the winter constellation Orion the Hunter (diagram at right). The Hubble image reveals a huge ultraviolet atmosphere with a mysterious hot spot on the stellar behemoth's surface. The enormous bright spot, twice the diameter of the Earth's orbit, is at least 2,000 Kelvin degrees hotter than the surface of the star. The image suggests that a totally new physical phenomenon may be affecting the atmospheres of some stars. Follow-up observations will be needed to help astronomers understand whether the spot is linked to oscillations previously detected in the giant star, or whether it moves systematically across the star's surface under the grip of powerful magnetic fields. The observations were made by Andrea Dupree of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, and Ronald Gilliland of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD, who announced their discovery today at the 187th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Antonio, Texas. The image was taken in ultraviolet light with the Faint Object Camera on March 3, 1995. Hubble can resolve the star even though the apparent size is 20,000 times smaller than the width of the full Moon - roughly equivalent to being able to resolve a car's headlights at a distance of 6,000 miles. Betelgeuse is so huge that, if it replaced the Sun at the center of our Solar System, its outer atmosphere would extend past the orbit of Jupiter (scale at lower left).
Andrea Dupree (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), Ronald Gilliland (STScI), NASA and ESA


May 12, 1997Black hole signature recorded

Hubble astronomers announced the discovery of a supermassive black hole in the center of galaxy M84. A spectrographic signature of the black hole was recorded using Hubble’s newly installed Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which mapped the motions of gas caught in the black hole’s gravitational pull.

Hubble observations of M84 by WFPC2 (left) and STIS instruments
A STIS spectrum (right) of galaxy M84’s nucleus (highlighted left) reveals rapid star motions at the galaxy’s center, indicative of a supermassive black hole.

June 19, 1997 – Plume from Io imaged

Astronomers announced that Hubble had observed a 250-mile-high plume of gas and dust from a volcanic eruption on Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io. Scientists estimated that the material must have been ejected from the volcano at more than 2,000 miles per hour. At the time, it was the largest plume yet seen on Io.

A mottled, reddish-orange sphere sits on a blue and light orange background. A plume of reddish-orange gas extends from the left side of Io.
The Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a picture of a 400-km-high (250-mile-high) plume of gas and dust from a volcanic eruption on Io, Jupiter's large innermost moon. Io was passing in front of Jupiter when this image was taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in July 1996. The plume appears as an orange patch just off the edge of Io in the eight o'clock position, against the blue background of Jupiter's clouds. Io's volcanic eruptions blasts material hundreds of kilometers into space in giant plumes of gas and dust. In this image, material must have been blown out of the volcano at more than 2,000 mph to form a plume of this size, which is the largest yet seen on Io. Until now, these plumes have only been seen by spacecraft near Jupiter, and their detection from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope opens up new opportunities for long-term studies of these remarkable phenomena. The plume seen here is from Pele, one of Io's most powerful volcanos. Pele's eruptions have been seen before. In March 1979, the Voyager 1 spacecraft recorded a 300-km-high eruption cloud from Pele. But the volcano was inactive when the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Jupiter in July 1979. This Hubble observation is the first glimpse of a Pele eruption plume since the Voyager expeditions. Io's volcanic plumes are much taller than those produced by terrestrial volcanos because of a combination of factors. The moon's thin atmosphere offers no resistance to the expanding volcanic gases; its weak gravity (one-sixth that of Earth) allows material to climb higher before falling; and its biggest volcanos are more powerful than most of Earth's volcanos. This image is a contrast-enhanced composite of an ultraviolet image (2600 Angstrom wavelength), shown in blue, and a violet image (4100 Angstrom wavelength), shown in orange. The orange color probably occurs because of the absorption and/or scattering of ultraviolet light in the plume. This light from Jupiter passes through the plume and is absorbed by sulfur dioxide gas or is scattered by fine dust, or both, while violet light passes through unimpeded. Future HST observations may be able to distinguish between the gas and dust explanations.
NASA, John Spencer (Lowell Observatory)


September 1998Preliminary evidence for an accelerating universe obtained

Astronomers using Hubble published the first evidence that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down, as expected, but accelerating. The results were based on distance measurements to supernovae located so far away that they allowed astronomers to determine the expansion rate of the universe.

Changes in the Rate of Expansion over Time
Illustration of the accelerating universe.


January 6, 1999Sharpest view of Ring Nebula released

Hubble released this image of the Ring Nebula, which was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier over 200 years ago and cataloged as Messier 57 (M57). This planetary nebula (so named because of its resemblance to a round planet in small telescopes) is a cylinder of gas seen almost end-on, produced by a dying star shedding its outer layers.

An beautifully colored ring of gas and dust. The ring is slightly elongated/egg-shaped. The center of the ring is blue with two stars visible inside of it (one directly in the center). Beyond the blue center are rings of color. First is green, then yellow, orange, and red.
The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the sharpest view yet of the most famous of all planetary nebulae: the Ring Nebula (M57). In this October 1998 image, the telescope has looked down a barrel of gas cast off by a dying star thousands of years ago. This photo reveals elongated dark clumps of material embedded in the gas at the edge of the nebula; the dying central star floating in a blue haze of hot gas. The nebula is about a light-year in diameter and is located some 2,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra. The colors are approximately true colors. The color image was assembled from three black-and-white photos taken through different color filters with the Hubble telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Blue isolates emission from very hot helium, which is located primarily close to the hot central star. Green represents ionized oxygen, which is located farther from the star. Red shows ionized nitrogen, which is radiated from the coolest gas, located farthest from the star. The gradations of color illustrate how the gas glows because it is bathed in ultraviolet radiation from the remnant central star, whose surface temperature is a white-hot 216,000 degrees Fahrenheit (120,000 degrees Celsius).
The Hubble Heritage Team (NASA/AURA/STScI)


May 3, 2000Universe’s missing hydrogen found

Astronomers announced that they had used Hubble to discover “missing” hydrogen that was created during the big bang but seemed to have disappeared afterward. By studying the light of quasars passing through intervening clouds of gas on its way to Earth, they found that invisible filaments of hydrogen weave their way between galaxies throughout the universe.

In this illustration, the upper-left corner holds a bright-white quasar. The lower-left corner holds an illustration of Earth's limb with Hubble orbiting above it. Between the quasar an Hubble are strands of reddish gas and dust
This illustration depicts how astronomers detected vast filaments of invisible hydrogen by using the light of a distant quasar (core of active galaxy) to probe the dark space between the galaxies.
Illustration: NASA, John Godfrey (STScI)


April 26, 2001First direct visual evidence of planet growth released

Astronomers released pictures from Hubble that provided the first direct visual evidence of planetary “building blocks” within dusty disks around young stars. The “protoplanetary disks” are located in the Orion Nebula approximately 1,500 light-years from Earth.

Four images of planetary disks in Orion. Upper-left looks like an upside down raindrop that is reddish with bright blobs of bright-green within. Upper-right is a pink, gaseous blob with a bright yellow spot within. Lower-left is a bright-yellow crescent with a dark core against a blue background. Lower-right image is a bright-yellow crescent with a long tail and a bright-white core against a black background.
Planet formation is a hazardous process. These four snapshots, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, show dust disks around embryonic stars in the Orion Nebula being "blowtorched" by a blistering flood of ultraviolet radiation from the region's brightest star. Within these disks are the seeds of planets. The doomed systems look like hapless comets, with wayward tails of gas boiling off the withering, pancake-shaped disks. The Frisbee-shaped disks, called protoplanetary disks, are wider than our solar system and reside in the centers of the cocoons of gas. These cocoons were formed from material evaporating off the surface of the disks. Evidence from Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 suggests that dust grains in the disk are already forming larger particles, which range in size from snowflakes to gravel. But these particles may not have time to grow into full-fledged planets because of the relentless "hurricane" of radiation from the nebula's hottest star, called Theta 1 Orionis C. In the picture at top left, the disk is the green-colored oval near the center. Radiation from the hot star is heating up the disk, causing matter to dissipate, like steam evaporating from the surface of boiling water. A strong "stellar wind," a stream of particles moving at 4,500 to 8,900 miles per hour (7,200 to 14,400 kilometers per hour), is propelling the material away from the disk. The material is glowing because it is being energized by radiation from the hot star. Located 1,500 light-years away, the Orion Nebula is the nearest "star factory" to Earth. The Hubble pictures were taken Feb. 26, 1998 and Jan. 11, 1999.
NASA, ESA, J. Bally (University of Colorado), H. Throop (SWRI), and C. O'Dell (Vanderbilt)

November 27, 2001First exoplanet atmosphere directly detected

Astronomers announced that Hubble had made the first direct measurement of an exoplanet’s atmosphere. Hubble detected sodium in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star 150 light-years away called HD 209458.

A exoplanet and its yellow-white star. The planet is bottom-center of the image. It is striped with light and dark clouds. The star is above and to the right of the planet.
Illustration of a planet and its star.
NASA, D. Charbonneau (Caltech & CfA), T. Brown (NCAR), R. Noyes (CfA) and R. Gilliland (STScI); Illustration: G. Bacon (STScI/AVL)


September 19, 2002 - Crab pulsar dynamics observed

Astronomers release Hubble observations taken in conjunction with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory showing shocks and other dynamic features produced by matter and antimatter propelled to near the speed of light by the Crab pulsar. The pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan at the heart of the Crab Nebula.

The movie shows dynamic rings, wisps and jets of matter and antimatter around the pulsar in the Crab Nebula as observed in optical light by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester (ASU) et al.
NASA, ESA, J. Hester (ASU) et al.


March 12, 2003 – Evaporating planet discovered

Hubble astronomers announced that they had observed, for the first time ever, the atmosphere of an exoplanet evaporating into space. The evaporating planet, called HD 209458b, is a “hot Jupiter,” a type of giant gaseous planet that orbits very closely around its parent star. Hubble’s observations reveal a hot, hydrogen-based atmosphere evaporating like a comet tail trailing behind the planet.

An artist's conception of HD 209458 b, an exoplanet whose atmosphere is being torn off at more than 35,000 km/hour by the radiation of its close-by parent star. This hot Jupiter was the first alien world discovered via the transit method, and the first planet to have its atmosphere studied. Image credit: NASA/European Space Agency/Alfred Vidal-Madjar (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS)
NASA, ESA, Alfred Vidal-Madjar (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS)

March 26, 2003Light echo recorded

Astronomers released Hubble images of a “light echo” around a star called V838 Monocerotis, which in January 2002 had suddenly swelled in brightness, giving off 600,000 times more light than our Sun does. Hubble’s images showed light from this outburst illuminating clouds of dust around the star as the light traveled outward.

A sequence of the four epochs (May-Dec. 2002) of the light echo of star V838 Mon.
NASA, L. Barranger (STScI)


March 9, 2004Hubble Ultra Deep Field released

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field observation was released, showing 10,000 galaxies in a tiny section of the sky. Made from a series of exposures that add up to a million seconds of observation time, the image was the deepest portrait of the universe yet taken and revealed some of the first galaxies dating back to the period shortly after the big bang.

10,000 galaxies in a single image, appearing as small swirls and dots of light.
This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is the deepest visible-light image of the cosmos. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, this galaxy-studded view represents a "deep" core sample of the universe, cutting across billions of light-years. - Full image and caption
NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team


July 4, 2005Deep Impact collided with a comet

NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft released a 820-pound projectile targeted at the comet 9P/Tempel 1. Hubble observations of the impact, released later that day, showed visible-light images of the comet before and after impact.

This time-lapse of 20 images reveals the collision between comet 9P/Tempel 1 and an 820-pound probe released by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft.
NASA, ESA, P. Feldman (JHU), H. Weaver (JHU APL), and G. Bacon (STScI)

October 31, 2005 Two small moons of Pluto discovered

Astronomers released discovery images from Hubble showing two previously unseen moons orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto. The discovery of the small moons provided insight into the nature and evolution of the Pluto system and early Kuiper Belt, a region of icy and rocky bodies beyond Neptune. Hubble would go on to discover a total of four moons around Pluto.

Two images: Left May 15, 2005. A white circle at image center is Pluto. Charon is below Pluto and aqua in color color. The two dots to the upper right of Pluto are the suspected moons. Right: May 19, 2005. Charon is now above Pluto. The two suspected moons have also moved above Pluto.
These Hubble Space Telescope images, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveal Pluto, its large moon Charon, and the planet's two new candidate satellites. Between May 15 and May 18, 2005, Charon, and the putative moons, provisionally designated P1 and P2, all appear to rotate counterclockwise around Pluto. P1 and P2 move less than Charon because they are farther from Pluto, and therefore would be orbiting at slower speeds. P1 and P2 are thousands of times less bright than Pluto and Charon. The enhanced-color images of Pluto (the brightest object) and Charon (to the right of Pluto) were constructed by combining short exposure images taken in filters near 475 nanometers (blue) and 555 nanometers (green-yellow). The images of the new satellites were made from longer exposures taken in a single filter centered near 606 nanometers (yellow), so no color information is available for them.
NASA, ESA, H. Weaver (JHU/APL), A. Stern (SwRI), and the Hubble Space Telescope Pluto Companion Search Team

December 22, 2005Moons and rings around Uranus discovered

Hubble observations of the planet Uranus were released revealing two never-before-seen, giant, dusty rings around the planet as well as two previously unknown moons, named Mab and Cupid. Hubble also showed that the orbits of Uranus’ inner moons had changed significantly over the previous decade.

Newly Discovered Moons and Rings of Uranus (Annotated). Two images of Uranus on its side, with its rings and planets orbits shown vertically. Uranus is an aqua sphere with white areas near the poles.
These composite images from several observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal a pair of newly discovered rings encircling the planet Uranus. The left composite image is made from Hubble images taken in 2003. The new dusty rings are extremely faint and required long exposures to capture their image. The background speckle pattern is noise in the image. The outermost ring (R/2003 U 1) is likely replenished by dust blasted off a newly discovered satellite called Mab, embedded in the ring and visible as a bright streak at the top of the outer ring. The new outermost ring is twice the radius of the previously known ring system around Uranus, as seen near image center. (The inner rings are much brighter, so no noise is visible in the background). Approximately halfway between the outermost ring and inner ring system is a second newly discovered ring (R/2003 U2). Only a faint segment of it appears at the 12:00 o'clock position. Because of the long exposures, the moons are smeared out and appear as arcs within the ring system. This image also shows the positions of Uranus's other known satellites. The earliest Uranian moons discovered were primarily named for fairies and sprites taken out of English literature, and that trend continued through Voyager's discovery of Puck (from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream) in late 1985. When the number of moons discovered by Voyager became so large, the rules were generalized so that names from traditional English literature could be used. Therfore the moons have names like Juliet, Rosalind, Ophelia, Cordelia, etc. The Hubble team actually identified the name Mab (Queen Mab the fairies' midwife in Romeo and Juliet) before their first Hubble observation, in the likelihood new moons would be discovered. Besides being a Roman god, Cupid is also a character in Shakespeare. In the image at right, taken two years later, the rings appear more oblique because Uranus has moved along its solar orbit. The planet Uranus itself is approaching spring equinox, when the Sun will be directly shining over the planet's equator in 2007. Cloud bands and storms are becoming more pronounced in the atmosphere. A bright storm appears at northern latitudes in the 2005 images. The images were taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys, using a clear filter.
NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)



Hubble observed the disintegration of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 as it approached the Sun. The observations provided a new opportunity to study the breakup of a comet nucleus.

NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)
NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

August 21, 2006Direct proof of dark matter observed

Astronomers using Hubble, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based telescopes released direct proof of dark matter in the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, also known as the Bullet Cluster.

Galaxies fill the scene against a black background. An oval, translucent blob of bright-pink at image center that is edged with purple blobs on either side of the pink.
This composite image shows the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-556, also known as the "bullet cluster." This cluster was formed after the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, the most energetic event known in the universe since the Big Bang. Hot gas detected by Chandra in X-rays is seen as two pink clumps in the image and contains most of the "normal," or baryonic, matter in the two clusters. The bullet-shaped clump on the right is the hot gas from one cluster, which passed through the hot gas from the other larger cluster during the collision. An optical image from Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxies in orange and white. The blue areas in this image depict where astronomers find most of the mass in the clusters. The concentration of mass is determined by analyzing the effect of so-called gravitational lensing, where light from the distant objects is distorted by intervening matter. Most of the matter in the clusters (blue) is clearly separate from the normal matter (pink), giving direct evidence that nearly all of the matter in the clusters is dark. The hot gas in each cluster was slowed by a drag force, similar to air resistance, during the collision. In contrast, the dark matter was not slowed by the impact because it does not interact directly with itself or the gas except through gravity. Therefore, during the collision the dark matter clumps from the two clusters moved ahead of the hot gas, producing the separation of the dark and normal matter seen in the image. If hot gas was the most massive component in the clusters, as proposed by alternative theories of gravity, such an effect would not be seen. Instead, this result shows that dark matter is required. Comparing the optical image with the blue emission shows that the most of the galaxies in each cluster are located near the two dark matter clumps. This shows that the galaxies in each cluster did not slow down because of the collision, unlike the hot gas.
X-ray: NASA, CXC, M.Markevitch et al.; Optical: NASA, STScI, Magellan, U.Arizona, Clowe et al.; Lensing Map: NASA, STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan, U.Arizona, D.Clowe et al.


October 29 – November 4, 2007 - Mystery comet observed

Hubble observed the bright core of comet 17P/Holmes, which mysteriously brightened by nearly a millionfold over a 24-hour period in late October. Hubble’s observations uncovered details as small as 33 miles (54 kilometers) across, revealed spurs of dust emanating from the comet’s nucleus, and showed the cloud of dust encircling the comet (called the coma) disperse and fade over several days.

This animation is a composite of images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope that reveal Comet Holmes's bright core. The images show that the coma, the cloud of dust and gas encircling the comet, is getting fainter over time. The coma was brightest in the Oct. 29 image. It is two times fainter on Oct. 31 and nine times dimmer on Nov. 4 than during the Oct. 29 observation. The coma is getting fainter because it is expanding. A huge number of small dust particles was created during the Oct. 23 outburst. Since then those particles have been moving away from the nucleus and filling interplanetary space. The coma therefore is becoming more diffuse over time. The nucleus, however, is still active and is producing a significant amount of new dust. So the region around the nucleus is still much brighter (at least 10 times brighter) than it usually is at this point in the comet's orbit. Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver (JHU APL)
NASA, ESA, and H. Weaver (JHU APL)

December 11, 2007 Hazy extrasolar atmosphere discovered

Astronomers announce that, for the first time, Hubble had detected strong evidence of hazes in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star. When the planet, called HD 189733b, passed in front of its parent star, Hubble was able to take spectral “fingerprints” of the planet’s atmosphere.

This is an artist's concept of HD 189733b and its parent star.
NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)


March 19, 2008First organic molecule detected on an exoplanet

Hubble astronomers announced their discovery of methane in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. Found on a Jupiter-sized planet named HD 189733b, this was the first organic molecule identified in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun.

Illustration: Bright orange-yellow star off of the page to the left. A small world orbits it. Hubble is on the right side, opposite the star and planet, pointing toward them. The bottom of the illustration holds a graph of
Illustration: Hubble the first detection ever of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting another star.
NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

November 13, 2008Visible-light images of an exoplanet released

Astronomers released what might be the first-ever visible-light images of an extrasolar planet. Taken by Hubble, the images showed a planet moving in its orbit around the star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years from Earth.

Hubble observations of Fomalhaut
In 2004, astronomers used Hubble to take what might be the first-ever visible-light pictures of an extrasolar planet, named Fomalhaut b.
NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (UC Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA GSFC), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA JPL)


February 25–28, 2010Large asteroid Vesta observed

Hubble captured images of the large asteroid Vesta as part of preparations for the Dawn spacecraft’s rendezvous with the asteroid in July 2011. Vesta is the second largest object that resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Hubble’s observations revealed features on the asteroid and showed that Vesta’s pole was tilted about four degrees more to the asteroid’s east than previously thought, meaning seasons would change later on Vesta than expected.

Credit: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (University of Maryland, College Park), and G. Bacon (STScI)
NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (University of Maryland, College Park), and G. Bacon (STScI)

August 19, 2010 Cosmic lens used for the first time to probe dark energy

Astronomers using Hubble announced that they had devised a new method of measuring dark energy, a mysterious force that pushes our universe apart at increasing speeds. Hubble observed Abell 1689, a massive cluster of galaxies that acts like a giant magnifying lens in space. By measuring how the light of galaxies located behind Abell 1689 was bent by the cluster’s gravity, astronomers could investigate the effect dark energy had on the geometry of space along the light’s path.

A cluster of galaxies fills the frame. A purple glow around the largest concentrations of galaxies indicates the distribution of dark matter.
Abell 1689 is an immense cluster of galaxies located 2.2 billion light-years away. Astronomers map the cluster's dark matter by plotting the arcs produced by light from background galaxies that are warped by the foreground cluster's gravitational field.
NASA, ESA, E. Jullo (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), P. Natarajan (Yale University), and J.-P. Kneib (Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, CNRS, France); Acknowledgment: H. Ford and N. Benetiz (Johns Hopkins University), and T. Broadhurst (Tel Aviv University)


October 4, 2011Nobel Prize awarded for discovery of accelerating universe

Hubble science team member Adam Riess and fellow astronomers won the Nobel Prize in Physics from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for discovering that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. The astronomers used Hubble data, as well as data from several ground-based telescopes.

A circular, gold Nobel Prize Medal sits against a black background.
Hubble science team member Adam Riess and fellow astronomers won the Nobel Prize in Physics from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on October 4, 2011 for discovering that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. The astronomers used Hubble data, as well as data from several ground-based telescopes.

December 6, 201110,000th Hubble science paper published

The 10,000th science paper using Hubble data was published, solidifying Hubble’s position as one of the most prolific astronomical endeavors in history.

An illustration that holds a graph showing the growth of Hubble's scientific publications. The graph is color coded by publication type. Across the top of the image are covers of some of the scientific journals along with cover pages of some of the published papers.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has passed another milestone in its 21 years of exploration: the 10,000th refereed science paper has been published. This makes Hubble one of the most prolific astronomical endeavors in history.
NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)


May 31, 2012Milky Way–Andromeda collision determined to be head-on

Astronomers announced that our Milky Way galaxy is destined for a head-on collision with the Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years. The Andromeda galaxy is currently 2.5 million light-years away but is falling toward the Milky Way under the mutual pull of gravity between the two galaxies.

This video series of photo illustrations shows the predicted merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, as it will unfold over the next several billion years. Credit: NASA, ESA, Z. Levay, R. van der Marel, and G. Bacon (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

July 11, 2012 - Fifth Pluto moon discovered

Astronomers using Hubble announced their discovery of a fifth moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto. Estimated to be irregular in shape and just 6 to 15 miles across, the newfound moon orbits in the same plane as the other satellites in the system. Hubble discovered four of the five known moons of Pluto in preparation for the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby in 2015.

Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, are at image center appearing as a large and small white dot. Hydra, Nix, and P4 (a very small white dot that has a green circle around it) are to the left of Pluto and Charon. P4 is to the right of Pluto and Charon.
This Hubble image shows five moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle marks the newly discovered moon, designated P5, as photographed by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 7.
NASA; ESA; M. Showalter, SETI Institute

September 25, 2012Hubble eXtreme Deep Field released

The deepest view of the universe yet captured, the eXtreme Deep Field, was released. The photo was created by combining 10 years of Hubble photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The faintest galaxies in the image are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye is capable of seeing.

The field of view is filled with galaxies in all shapes and sizes. Colors range from red to blue and those in between.
The Hubble Extreme Deep Field contains 5,500 galaxies, including some that go back as far as 13.2 billion years in time.
NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team


April 19, 2013Horsehead Nebula infrared image released

An infrared image of the Horsehead Nebula from Hubble was released to celebrate the telescope’s 23rd anniversary in space. The nebula is a small part of the vast star-forming complex in the constellation Orion and is expected to disintegrate in about 5 million years.

Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula is shown in infrared light as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. The heart of the nebula appears in red like a capital letter T with wilted edges. Wrapped around this heart are white, gray, and transparent-looking clouds of material. All on a start-studded background.
The Horsehead Nebula is a dark cloud of dense gas and dust located just below the belt of Orion on the sky.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

November 7, 2013Asteroid found to have comet-like tails

Astronomers released Hubble images of a unique, never-before-seen type of object: an asteroid that sprouted six comet-like tails.

Left: Bright, blue-white asteroid at top with a tail extending toward the center bottom. Right: Bright, blue-white asteroid at top with a fainter tail extending to the center-left.
Images of asteroid P/2013 P5 revealed its unique dust trails radiating in multiple directions and changing in appearance with time.
NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

December 12, 2013 Water vapor plumes observed on Europa

Astronomers announced that Hubble had observed water vapor plumes rising above the frigid south polar region of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The observations provided the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon’s surface.

A beige, icy world scarred by dark lines. Blue area extending into space from the lower-left quadrant of the Europa.
This graphic shows the location of water vapor detected over Europa's south pole in observations taken by Hubble.
NASA/ESA/L. Roth/SWRI/University of Cologne


January 7, 2014First Frontier Field image released

The first of Hubble’s Frontier Fields images was released, featuring the galaxy cluster Abell 2744. The Frontier Fields multi-year program obtained super-deep views of the universe using long exposures from Hubble. This image of Abell 2744 was the deepest-ever picture taken of a cluster of galaxies and revealed some of the faintest and youngest galaxies yet detected.

Deep field image of galaxies in space
This long-exposure image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is the deepest ever made of any cluster of galaxies.

March 6, 2014Disintegrating asteroid imaged

Hubble observations were released showing the never-before-seen breakup of an asteroid. A series of Hubble images taken over months revealed that the asteroid, called P/2013 R3, had broken into as many as 10 smaller pieces and was continuing to break apart. The images also showed that the fragments were drifting away from each other at a mere one mile per hour, suggesting that a collision was unlikely to be the cause of the breakup.

This video, assembled from a series of Hubble images, reveals the breakup of asteroid P/2013 R3 over a period of several months starting in late 2013. The largest fragments are up to 180 meters (200 yards) in radius, each with "tails" caused by dust lifted from their surfaces and pushed back by the pressure of sunlight. The ten pieces of the asteroid drift apart slowly and show a range of breakup times, suggesting that the disintegration cannot be explained by a collision with another asteroid. One idea for the breakup is that the asteroid was accelerated by sunlight to spin at a fast enough rate to fly apart by centrifugal force. The images were taken in visible light with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)
NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

May 15, 2014Great Red Spot found to be shrinking

Scientists released Hubble images showing that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is smaller than ever seen before, signifying that the giant storm is shrinking. Hubble’s observations also revealed that the spot is changing shape from an oval to a circle.

An image of Jupiter, with three inset images showing its Great Red Spot growing smaller between 1995 and 2014.
Images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, taken by Hubble of 20 years, shows how the planet's trademark spot has decreased in size over the years.

June 3, 2014Hubble Ultra Deep Field updated

Hubble premiered a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe, adding ultraviolet observations to the previously released Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The addition of ultraviolet light provided a missing link in the history of star formation and updated the deep field to cover the entire range of light that Hubble can observe.

A myriad of colorful galaxies, in all shapes, sizes, and forms, dot the image.
Approximately 10,000 galaxies fill a small area of sky called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. This is the deepest image of the universe ever made at optical and near-infrared wavelengths.
NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith and the HUDF Team (STScI), and B. Mobasher (STScI)


January 5, 2015Hubble revisited iconic “Pillars of Creation”

New Hubble images of the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula were released to the public. Hubble made its first observations of these star-forming pillars in 1995. The newest images provided a more detailed visible-light view of the pillars and presented an infrared view, which revealed stars hidden within and behind the towers of gas and dust.

Three pillars of gas and dust rise from the bottom of the image. They are rusty-brown and black with golden highlights. A bright, hazy background of varying shades of blue and turquoise helps silhouette the darker pillars. Bright stars dot the background.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revisited the famous Pillars of Creation, revealing a sharper and wider view of the structures in this visible-light image. Astronomers combined several Hubble exposures to assemble the wider view. The towering pillars about are 5 light-years tall. The new image was taken with Hubble's versatile and sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3. The pillars are bathed in blistering ultraviolet light from a grouping of young, massive stars located off the top of the image. Streamers of gas can be seen bleeding off the pillars as the intense radiation heats and evaporates it into space. Denser regions of the pillars are shadowing material beneath them from the powerful radiation. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars, which are made of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, a vast star-forming region 6,500 light-years from Earth. The colors in the image highlight emission from several chemical elements. Oxygen emission is blue, sulfur is orange, and hydrogen and nitrogen are green.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

January 5, 2015Panoramic view of Andromeda galaxy released

Astronomers presented the largest Hubble image to date, featuring a sweeping view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy. Assembled into a mosaic using 7,398 Hubble exposures, the image includes over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters within the galaxy’s disk.

This sweeping bird's-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) shows stars, lanes of dark dust and bright core. The central region is on the left.
Assembled from a total of 7,398 exposures taken over 411 individual pointings of the telescope, this image of our nearest major galactic neighbor, M31, is the largest Hubble mosaic to date. The 1.5 billion pixels in the mosaic reveal over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the pancake-shaped disk of M31, also known as the Andromeda galaxy.
NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams and L.C. Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team and R. Gendler

December 16, 2015First-ever predicted supernova captured

Hubble images were released capturing light from the first-ever predicted supernova explosion. Astronomers predicted the supernova’s appearance by studying how a galaxy cluster’s immense gravity was bending and magnifying the light from the supernova (which exploded in a galaxy behind the cluster), causing it to appear in different locations at different times.

The field is filled with galaxies. One galaxy in particular is gravitationally lensed (circled in red) at least three times.
This image shows the appearances of the Refsdal supernova. The uppermost circle shows the position of the supernova as it could have been seen in 1998. The lowermost circle shows the galaxy which lensed the supernova four times — a discovery made in late 2014. The middle circle shows the latest position of the reappearing supernova in 2015.
NASA, ESA, S. Rodney (JHU) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (UCLA), P. Kelly (UC Berkeley) and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team; M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI)


March 3, 2016Cosmic distance record broken

Astronomers using Hubble announced that they had shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe at that time. The bright, infant galaxy, named GN-z11, was seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past, just 400 million years after the big bang.

An image of space with thousands of galaxies with an insert that is blown up of the farthest galaxy ever detected.
Hubble Space Telescope astronomers, studying the northern hemisphere field from the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), have measured the distance to the farthest galaxy ever seen. The survey field contains tens of thousands of galaxies stretching far back into time. Galaxy GN-z11, shown in the inset, is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past, just 400 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three percent of its current age. The galaxy is ablaze with bright, young, blue stars, but looks red in this image because its light has been stretched to longer spectral wavelengths by the expansion of the universe.
NASA , ESA , P. Oesch (Yale University), G. Brammer (STScI ), P. van Dokkum (Yale University), and G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz)

April 26, 2016Hubble discovered moon of dwarf planet Makemake

Scientists announced that they had used Hubble to discover a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, the second brightest icy dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt (after Pluto). The observations showed that the moon, nicknamed MK 2, orbits approximately 13,000 miles from Makemake. The moon’s discovery provided valuable information on the dwarf planet system, such as the mass for the system and insight into its evolution.

Hubble's view of Makemake. Bright-white Pluto is at the center of the image. An arrow points to a small white dot just above the planet.
Only about 100 miles in diameter, the tiny dot above the dwarf planet Makemake seen in this Hubble image is its orbiting moon, nicknamed MK 2.
NASA, ESA, and A. Parker and M. Buie (SwRI)


February 22, 2017Hubble studied atmospheres of Earth-sized exoplanets

Astronomers announced that they had discovered seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 using the Spitzer Space Telescope and that Hubble had examined the atmospheres of four of the planets, including the three planets that resided in the star’s habitable zone. Hubble’s observations found no evidence for puffy, hydrogen-rich atmospheres around the two innermost planets, suggesting that those planets are rocky.

Illustration of the TRAPPIST-1 system
Only 40 light-years away — a stone’s throw on the scale of our galaxy — several Earth-sized planets orbit the red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Four of the planets lie in the star’s habitable zone, a region at a distance from the star where liquid water, the key to life as we know it, could exist on the planets’ surfaces. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have conducted the first spectroscopic survey of these worlds. Hubble reveals that at least three of the exoplanets do not seem to contain puffy, hydrogen-rich atmospheres similar to gaseous planets such as Neptune. This means the atmospheres may be more shallow and rich in heavier gases like those found in Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen. Astronomers plan to use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2019, to probe deeper into the planetary atmospheres to search for the presence of such elements that could offer hints of whether these far-flung worlds are habitable.
Artist's Concept: NASA/JPL-Calte

October 16, 2017Hubble observed source of gravitational waves

Scientists presented Hubble images showing light from a source of gravitational waves. The gravitational waves were produced when two neutron stars merged in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth. Hubble, along with many other space and ground-based telescopes, observed the resulting “kilonova” after the gravitational waves were detected. It was the first time light from a source of gravitational waves had ever been detected.

kilonova associated with GW170817 (box) was observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory
The kilonova associated with GW170817 (box) was observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.


April 2, 2018Hubble revealed farthest star ever seen

Astronomers released Hubble images of the farthest star ever seen, nicknamed Icarus. The enormous blue star resides in a very distant spiral galaxy and is so far away that its light has taken 9 billion years to reach Earth. Hubble was able to spot Icarus because the star’s light was magnified by an intervening cluster of galaxies in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

image of stars and galaxies with two insets
Through a quirk of nature called “gravitational lensing,” a natural lens in space amplified a very distant star’s light. Astronomers using Hubble took advantage of this phenomenon to pinpoint the faraway star and set a new distance record for the farthest individual star ever seen. They also used the distant star to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a galaxy cluster. The team dubbed the star “Icarus,” after the Greek mythological character who flew too near the Sun on wings of feathers and wax that melted. Its official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1.
NASA, ESA, and P. Kelly (University of Minnesota)

June 27, 2018First known interstellar object studied

Results from Hubble observations of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object to pass through our solar system, were announced. Hubble, along with other space and ground-based telescopes, measured the object’s trajectory and found that it gained an unexpected boost of speed. A possible explanation is that ‘Oumuamua expelled gaseous material like a comet, which influenced its path.

This illustration shows ‘Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system.
This illustration shows ‘Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system. As the complex rotation of the object makes it difficult to determine the exact shape, there are many models of what it could look like.

October 3, 2018Possible exomoon found

Astronomers announced that the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes had gathered evidence of a possible moon orbiting a planet outside our solar system. Potentially as large as Neptune, the suspected “exomoon” accompanies a planet several times more massive than Jupiter called Kepler-1625b, which orbits a Sun-like star 8,000 light-years from Earth.

artist concept: A distant star off to the upper left. A large banded world is in the foreground. In front of it is a smaller, blue world.
Our solar system has eight major planets, and nearly 200 moons. Though astronomers have to date found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, no moons have yet been found. That hasn't been for any lack of looking, it’s just that moons are smaller than planets and therefore harder to detect. The Hubble and Kepler space telescopes found evidence for what could be a giant moon accompanying a gas-giant planet that orbits the star Kepler-1625, located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The moon may be as big as Neptune and it orbits a planet several times more massive than Jupiter. If our solar system is a typical example, moons may outnumber planets in our galaxy by at least an order of magnitude or more. This promises a whole new frontier for characterizing the nature of moons and their potential for hosting life as we know it. The exomoon at Kepler-1625b is too far away to be directly photographed. Its presence is inferred when it passes in front of the star, momentarily dimming its light. Such an event is called a transit. However, the "footprint" of the moon's transit signal is weaker than for the host planet. The researchers caution that the moon’s presence will need to be conclusively proven by follow-up Hubble observations.
Artwork: NASA, ESA, and L. Husta


May 2, 2019 – Hubble released its largest deep-field image yet

Astronomers unveiled the Legacy Deep Field, the largest portrait of the distant universe ever assembled with the Hubble Space Telescope. Covering an area of sky almost as wide as that spanned by the Full Moon, the image combines 7,500 separate Hubble exposures taken over 16 years and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies stretching across 13.3 billion years of cosmic history.

portion of the Hubble Legacy Field, one of the widest views of the universe ever made
This Hubble Space Telescope image represents a portion of the Hubble Legacy Field, one of the widest views of the universe ever made. The image, a combination of thousands of snapshots, represents 16 years' worth of observations. The Hubble Legacy Field includes observations taken by several Hubble deep-field surveys, including the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), the deepest view of the universe. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time. This cropped image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 200,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe's birth in the big bang.
NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth and D. Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz), K. Whitaker (University of Connecticut), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), P. Oesch (University of Geneva) and the Hubble Legacy Field team

September 13, 2019 – Water vapor detected on habitable-zone exoplanet

Astronomers presented the first detection of water vapor in the atmosphere of an exoplanet orbiting within its star’s “habitable zone” (where temperatures are just right for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface). Hubble detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet called K2-18b, which orbits a small red dwarf star about 110 light-years away.

Artist's image of planet K2-18b with a companion planet and host star.
This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system.
ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser.


April 20, 2020 – Hubble studied composition of interstellar comet

After using Hubble to track and study Comet Borisov, the first known interstellar comet to pass through our solar system, scientists revealed Hubble’s finding that the comet possesses an abundance of carbon monoxide. This unusual composition suggests the comet might have formed in a carbon-rich disk around a cool, red dwarf star.

bluish comet trailing dust and gas as it travels through space.
This Hubble image, taken on Oct. 12, 2019, was taken when comet 2I/Borisov was about 260 million miles (418 million kilometers) from Earth.
NASA, ESA and D. Jewitt (UCLA)


April 29, 2021 – Growing Exo-Planet Imaged

Hubble viewed a still-forming, Jupiter-sized planet feeding off material surrounding a young star. The result was one of only 15 exo-planets imaged to date, the first in ultraviolet light.

Blue background. Center of image is a disk blocking the light of a star. Below and just to the left of the disk, at about seven o'clock, is a bright white point. This is PDS 70b.
Hubble’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light reveals radiation from super-heated gas falling onto a world called PDS 70b. The glare of the star was blocked, allowing Hubble to directly observe PDS 70b accumulating mass. Located some 370 light-years from Earth, the planet is about five times the mass of Jupiter and growing at a snail’s pace. Researchers found that the planet is growing so slowly that if the rate remains steady for another million years, its bulk will increase by only about 1/100th of Jupiter’s mass
NASA, ESA, and Y. Zhou (McDonald Observatory/University of Texas)

June 28, 2021 – Theoretical Electron-Capture Supernova Discovered

Astronomers found convincing evidence for a type of exploding star that may explain the bright supernova that birthed the Crab Nebula.

A bright galaxy seen from the side, a dark dust lane cuts through the middle. A bright point is below and to the right of the galaxy.
Composite Image
NASA/STScI/J. DePasquale and Las Cumbres Observatory


March 30, 2022 – Hubble Breaks Its Own Record

Hubble detected the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the big bang. The star is so far away that its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, surpassing the previous record by nearly 4 billion years.

background galaxies, a faint, red arc holds 3 bright dots, the center one is Earendel
This detailed view highlights the star Earendel's position along a ripple in space-time (dotted line) that magnifies it and makes it possible for the star to be detected over such a great distance—nearly 13 billion light-years. Also indicated is a cluster of stars that is mirrored on either side of the line of magnification. The distortion and magnification are created by the mass of a huge galaxy cluster located in between Hubble and Earendel. The mass of the galaxy cluster is so great that it warps the fabric of space, and looking through that space is like looking through a magnifying glass—along the edge of the glass or lens, the appearance of things on the other side are warped as well as magnified.
NASA, ESA, Brian Welch (JHU), Dan Coe (STScI); Image Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

April 12, 2022 – Largest Comet Nucleus

Hubble determined the size of the largest comet nucleus ever seen. With an estimated diameter of 80 miles, it’s about 50 times larger than most known comet nuclei. Its estimated mass is a staggering 500 trillion tons, a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical comet found much closer to the Sun.

Bright blue-white comet image
This sequence shows how the nucleus of Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) was isolated from a vast shell of dust and gas surrounding the solid icy nucleus. On the left is a photo of the comet taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 on January 8, 2022. A model of the coma (middle panel) was obtained by means of fitting the surface brightness profile assembled from the observed image on the left. This allowed for the coma to be subtracted, unveiling the point-like glow from the nucleus. Combined with radio telescope data, astronomers arrived at a precise measurement of the nucleus size. That's no small feat from something about 2 billion miles away. Though the nucleus is estimated to be as large as 85 miles across, it is so far away it cannot be resolved by Hubble. Its size is derived from its reflectivity as measured by Hubble. The nucleus is estimated to be as black as charcoal. The nucleus area is gleaned from radio observations.
NASA, ESA, Man-To Hui (Macau University of Science and Technology), David Jewitt (UCLA); Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

May 5, 2022 Hubble Found a Companion Star That Survived in the Aftermath of a Supernova

Hubble uncovered a companion star previously hidden in the glare of its partner's supernova. 

Artwork: Bright, blue-white supernova star at upper left fills most of the scene. Irradiated white planet at lower right
This artist's illustration shows supernova 2013ge, with its companion star at lower right.
Illustration: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

September 29, 2022March 1, 2023
Hubble Captures Detailed Views of DART Impact

Hubble had a front row seat to a first of its kind NASA test for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards. 

Small white dot left of center. An irregularly-shaped blue haze surrounds it. A long blue tail trails off to the right.
This Hubble image is from October 8, 2022, 11.9 days after impact.
NASA, ESA, STScI, and Jian-Yang Li (PSI); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

January 12, 2023Black Hole Twisting a Captured Star Into a Donut Shape

Astronomers recorded a star's final moments as it was gobbled up by a black hole.

1) upper left: yellow-white star at left of frame, black hole at center right 2) upper right: stream of star gas swirls around and into a black hole 3) lower left: rusty-orange disk forms around a black hole 4) lower right: disk is enlarged, star is gone
NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

November 16, 2023 Size of Nearest Transiting Earth-Sized Planet Measured

Hubble observations showed that the planet is 1.07 times Earth's diameter. This means the planet is a rocky world, like Earth, with approximately the same surface gravity.

The disk of a bright reddish-orange-white star is just above and to the right of image center. A small black world is passing in front of the star. A closer planet is in the lower-left corner. We see it as an illuminated crescent facing the star. Two reddish-orange stars are off to the right of the central star. All on a black background dotted with more distant stars.
An artist's concept of the nearby exoplanet LTT 1445Ac, which is the size of Earth
NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)