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Happy Birthday Hubble: The University of Sussex celebrates the space telescope’s big 30

Image courtesy of NASA on Unsplash

Dr Stephen Wilkins is one of the organisers of Lewes STEMFest

The University of Sussex will be celebrating the 30th birthday of the Hubble Space Telescope with a special online talk.

Dr Stephen Wilkins, Reader In Astronomy in the University of Sussex’s, will give a live streamed lecture at 7pm on YouTube tomorrow [Thursday 23 April] followed by a live Q&A on Zoom starting around 7.30pm.

The event is part of the regular public lecture series Sussex Universe run by the university’s School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Talks are usually held on the university campus but have moved online in response to Coronavirus restrictions.

Dr Wilkins said: “Thanks to Hubble’s unique position above the Earth's atmosphere and five manned servicing missions it has maintained its position as one of the world’s premier observatories to this day.

“Over its 30 year career Hubble has had an unprecedented scientific and cultural impact; discoveries extending from the outer Solar System to the edge of the observable Universe have revolutionised our understanding of astronomy and cosmology while its spectacular images have inspired the wider public’s wonder.”

On 24 April 1990, Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched the $5bn Hubble telescope into orbit and the images it has captured has been invaluable to scientists exploring the early phase of galaxy formation.

Since the installation of the Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009, Hubble has been able to identify galaxies over approximately 95% of the Universe’s history.

To explore the very early stages of the universe, a new space telescope capable of looking far into the near-infrared is required.

The new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a partnership between the US' National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, is under construction and will be Hubble’s spiritual successor when it launches next March.

A team at the University of Sussex, led by Dr Wilkins, will be amongst the first scientists to make use of JWST via the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science survey. This project will reveal some of the most distant objects in the Universe thereby helping us understand stars and galaxies formed and evolved.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2020