Hubble Space Telescope celebrates 30 years of discovery

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched, bringing Hubble into space

April 24 marks three decades of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the intergalactic photographer that will leave space lovers starry-eyed.

NASA has much to celebrate given the sheer amount of data about our universe the Hubble Telescope has gathered during the last 30 years.

For a glimpse into what photographs Hubble has captured, NASA compiled the top 600 into a video montage.

"Though numerous, these images are just a glimpse of the data collected by Hubble over the past 30 years, and only a tiny sliver of our vast universe," researchers wrote.

»RELATED: What did NASA's Hubble Telescope see on your birthday? 

It’s not just about the striking visuals. Hubble has made numerous advances in scientific knowledge.

The telescope captures data (relatively) close to home, such as the surface of Pluto, and far away, like black holes’ “signatures.”

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It also contributed significantly to the known age and history of the universe.

In the mid-1920s, Edward Hubble, the telescope’s eponym, theorized the universe was ever expanding.

Hubble based his research on the fact that galaxies appear to be moving away from Earth, with further galaxies moving faster. He guessed the correlation between distance and apparent velocity showed the universe was growing, but Hubble was unable to pin down the rate of expansion.

»MORE: Universe 80M years older than thought

It wasn’t until 1999, when the Hubble Telescope calculated the distance between 18 galaxies, that scientists gained the missing variable to determining the universe’s age.

Researchers named the unit that describes how fast the universe is expanding “The Hubble Constant.”

This illustration shows the three steps astronomers used to measure the expansion rate of the Universe to an unprecedented accuracy, using measurements from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

Credit: ESA via Wikimedia Commons

icon to expand image

Credit: ESA via Wikimedia Commons

While these technical findings are reason enough to celebrate in scientists’ eyes, anyone can join in NASA’s less-mathematical anniversary festivities.

The main focus will be “unveiling events” across the United States and Europe.

»PHOTOS: Spacewalkers repair Hubble

For its birthday, the Hubble Space Telescope and researchers will reveal a never-before-seen space image of some object.

It’s just as mysterious as it sounds:

"Over the years, we have released special anniversary images to celebrate Hubble's launch. The subject of each anniversary image is an object or region in space that is intriguing both aesthetically and scientifically. ... The 30th anniversary image will captivate and inspire a new generation of space science enthusiasts, reaching a broader, more diverse audience than ever before." —NASA's Hubblesite

Meantime, Hubble fans can check out other photographs on NASA’s newly launched birthday search tool.

Users are sharing stellar photographs on social media using the hashtag #Hubble30.

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