NASA recently celebrated 32 years of Hubble observations. The space telescope was launched in 1990. Since its launch, it has managed to make more than 1.4 million observations. Now a physicist named Casey Handmer has combined all of those observations into one jaw-dropping image.
Here’s what Hubble’s 1.4 million observations look like together
Handler shared the image on Twitter back in April. He originally split it into four pieces. However, he later added another tweet with the full Hubble sightings tied together.
The piece is absolutely stunning and a stark reminder of just how big the sky beyond us truly is. In fact, Handmer says Hubble hasn’t even managed to observe as much of the sky as one might think.
“Hubble’s field of view is 202 arcseconds,” Handmer explained on Twitter. As such, he says it would take around 3.2 million observations to completely cover the sky. By then, more than 1.4 million Hubble observations had been made. As such, the telescope must have captured at least half of the sky, right?
Not exactly. Although Hubble has made over 1.4 million observations, it often observes an area multiple times. Curious to find out what Hubble actually saw, Handmer gathered data from Astropy.org and began compiling it into an image. In total, he says Hubble has only seen about 0.8% of the sky so far.
Why has Hubble seen so little of it?
If Hubble has already made half the observations it would need to cover the sky, why have we seen so little? Well, there are several reasons. First, NASA didn’t design Hubble to do wide-field surveys. As such, the observations he has undergone are much more targeted. Some parts of the sky are more interesting than others.
Some Hubble observations can also take longer than others, Handmer explained. And that’s not even taking into account the number of repeated sightings of interesting areas. No matter how you slice it, the fact is that NASA didn’t design Hubble to map the whole sky. Instead, the agency designed it to capture snapshots of specific locations. To study our universe more deeply.
It was meant to serve as a way to study specific points of interest in the night sky. These points of interest include things like black holes, colliding galaxies, and other celestial anomalies that can help us better understand our universe.
If you look at the image above, it gives a good idea of the type of Hubble observations that have been made so far. And, if you follow the curved line through the center, you can actually see a representation of repeated sightings that have taken place across the solar system.
Despite the fact that Hubble has explored so little of our sky, seeing this image and all of these Hubble observations together is almost mind-blowing. In the past 32 years alone, humanity has made tremendous strides in learning about the universe beyond our little planet.
And, with new instruments like the James Webb Telescope, that progress will undoubtedly continue in the future.