Exploring the Expanse: 30 Years of Hubble Discoveries
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Exploring the Expanse: 30 Years of Hubble Discoveries

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Exploring the Expanse Hubble Discoveries

Exploring the Expanse: 30 Years of Hubble Discoveries

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here.

We’ve been fascinated by space for centuries, but telescopes truly opened our eyes to what lies beyond our frontiers.

For 30 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has been our companion in helping us understand outer space, paving the way for many important scientific discoveries in the process.

A Window to the Universe

Hubble launched on Apr 24, 1990 and has been in our orbit ever since. However, it had something of a shaky start. Due to an error in its primary mirror, it returned many wobbly and blurry images—until a servicing mission in December 1993 fixed the issue.

Today’s incredible map was created by Nadieh Bremer of Visual Cinnamon, for the scientific journal Physics Today. It incorporates over 550,000 scientific observations, to show the diverse objects captured by Hubble between 1990-2019.

Certain constellations have been included to help place these findings, many of which are also visible to the naked eye. Here are the main color-coded categories found on the map:

  • Yellow: Star/ Stellar cluster
    Example: V838 Monocerotis, which includes a red star and a light echo.
  • Red: Galaxy/ Clusters of galaxies
    Example: Spiral galaxy M81, half the size of the Milky Way.
  • Green: Interstellar medium (ISM)
    Example: Eagle Nebula, a majestic spire of cosmic dust and gas, resembling pillars and spanning 4-5 light years.
  • Blue: Solar System
    Example: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a high-pressure storm in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • Pink: Calibration/Unidentified (e.g. Hubble Deep Field surveys)
    Example: Ultra Deep Field, which captured a view of 10,000 galaxies over 11 days—some which date back to the early billion years of the universe.

NASA considers the Hubble telescope the “most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope” and not without good reason—its total observations top 1.3 million.

Hubble Observations, by Category

The journey doesn’t end there, either. Bremer also looked at the frequency of Hubble observations that occurred within each of these categories, ranging from 1,000-20,000.

Hubble Observation by Category

Source: Physics Today

Each category encompasses multiple distinctive descriptions. For example, galaxies can be broken down further into whether they are spiral, nuclear, elliptical-shaped and much more.

Hubble’s Growing Legacy

The images sent back by Hubble over these three decades are not just for aesthetic purposes. The telescope is also responsible for immense contributions to the astronomy field: close to 13,000 scientific papers have used Hubble as a source to date.

The biggest scientific breakthrough thus far? The realization that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate—thanks to a force called dark energy.

Hubble really did open up the whole universe to us in a way that nothing else did.

—Colleen Hartman, Former Deputy Center Director, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

It’s clear that Hubble already has an impressive legacy, and it’s not expected to be retired until at least the year 2025. Soon, it will be joining forces with the new James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in March 2021. For the next generation of space enthusiasts, their eyes to the skies may well be the Webb instead.

For the true data viz nerds among us, here is an in-depth blog post detailing the sky map’s creation from scratch.

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Space

The Celestial Zoo: A Map of 200+ Objects in Our Universe

This detailed map highlights 200+ celestial objects that astronomers have discovered about our universe and provides facts about each one.

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Detailed Map of Outer Space and the Known Universe

The Celestial Zoo: A Map of 200+ Objects in our Universe

Humans have been observing the universe for thousands of years.

And while we haven’t figured out all the answers quite yet, we’ve made some remarkable discoveries when it comes to learning about outer space.

What are some of the most notable observations that scientists have discovered so far? This map of outer space by Pablo Carlos Budassi highlights more than 200 celestial objects in our universe and provides details and facts about each one.

The Types of Celestial Objects Mapped

To create this graphic, Budassi used a combination of logarithmic astronomical maps from Princeton University, as well as images from NASA.

The visualization highlights 216 different celestial objects that are color-coded and organized into five overarching categories:

  • Moons and Asteroids
  • Planets
  • Galaxies
  • Star System
  • Great Scales/Superclusters

At the center of the map is the Sun, which is the largest object in our Solar System. According to NASA, the Sun’s volume is equivalent to 1.3 million Earths. The Sun is the powerhouse of life here on Earth—its energy provides our planet with a mild, warm climate that keeps us alive, keeping the Earth from becoming a frozen rock.

While the Sun is the only star in the Solar System, there is a neighboring star system called Alpha Centauri that’s approximately 4.37 light-years away. It’s made up of three stars—Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A, and Alpha Centauri B.

Proxima Centauri, as the Latin name indicates, is the closest of the three to Earth and has an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone.

The Life of a Star

In a star’s early stages, it’s powered by hydrogen. However, when its hydrogen stores are depleted, some stars are able to fuse helium or even heavier elements.

Stars similar to the size of the Sun will grow, cool down, and eventually transform into a red giant. The Sun has about 5,000 million more years before it reaches its red giant stage, but when that happens, it will likely expand to the point where it swallows up the Earth.

While stars emit energy for years, it’s important to note that they don’t shine for eternity. Their exact life span depends on their size, with bigger stars burning out faster than their smaller counterparts.

But as light from distant objects millions of light-years away takes a long time to reach us here on Earth, the largest of stars shine for hundreds of millions of years after they die.

Just How Big is Our Universe?

Some experts believe that the universe is infinite, while others argue that we can’t yet know for certain because current measurements aren’t accurate enough.

However, scientists believe that our observable universe extends about 46 billion light-years in every direction, giving it a diameter of roughly 93 billion light-years.

But just how much of the universe extends beyond what we can see? We may never find out.

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Technology

All of the World’s Spaceports on One Map

This map is a comprehensive look at both existing and proposed spaceports and missile launching locations around the world.

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Mapped: The World’s Rocket Launch Sites

From Sputnik 1 to today’s massive satellite constellations, every object in space was launched from just a handful of locations.

The map above, from BryceTech, is a comprehensive look at the world’s spaceports (both orbital and sub-orbital) as well as ballistic missile test sites.

ℹ️ In sub-orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft reaches outer space, but it doesn’t complete an orbital revolution or reach escape velocity. In orbital spaceflight, a spacecraft remains in space for at least one orbit.

The World’s Major Spaceports

Though the graphic above is a detailed list of many types of rocket launch sites, we’ll focus on major sites that are sending satellites and passengers into sub-orbit, orbit, and beyond.

Launch FacilityLocationCountry
Cape Canaveral Space Force StationFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Cape Canaveral SpaceportFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Kennedy Space CenterFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Cecil Field SpaceportFlorida🇺🇸 U.S.
Colorado Air & Space PortColorado🇺🇸 U.S.
Vandenberg Air Force BaseCalifornia🇺🇸 U.S.
Mojave Air and Space PortCalifornia🇺🇸 U.S.
Oklahoma Air & Space PortOklahoma🇺🇸 U.S.
Poker Flat Research RangeAlaska🇺🇸 U.S.
Pacific Spaceport ComplexAlaska🇺🇸 U.S.
Spaceport AmericaNew Mexico🇺🇸 U.S.
Launch Site One (Corn Ranch)Texas🇺🇸 U.S.
Houston SpaceportTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
Midland Air & Space PortTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
SpaceX Development and Test FacilityTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
SpaceX StarbaseTexas🇺🇸 U.S.
Spaceport CamdenGeorgia🇺🇸 U.S.
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportVirginia🇺🇸 U.S.
Wallops Flight FacilityVirginia🇺🇸 U.S.
Reagan Test SiteKwajalein Atoll🇲🇭 Marshall Islands
Naro Space CenterOuter Naro Island🇰🇷 South Korea
Sohae Satellite Launching StationNorth Pyongan Province🇰🇵 North Korea
Kapustin YarAstrakhan Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Plesetsk CosmodromeArkhangelsk Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Vostochny CosmodromeAmur Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Yasny Launch BaseOrenburg Oblast🇷🇺 Russia
Arnhem Space CentreNorthern Territory🇦🇺 Australia
Whalers Way Orbital Launch ComplexSouth Australia🇦🇺 Australia
Koonibba Test RangeSouth Australia🇦🇺 Australia
Bowen Orbital Spaceport Queensland 🇦🇺 Australia
Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1Wairoa District🇳🇿 New Zealand
Baikonur CosmodromeBaikonur🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
Space Port OitaŌita🇯🇵 Japan
Tanegashima Space CenterKagoshima🇯🇵 Japan
Uchinoura Space CenterKagoshima🇯🇵 Japan
Taiki Aerospace Research FieldHokkaido🇯🇵 Japan
Hokkaido SpaceportHokkaido🇯🇵 Japan
Ryori Launch SiteIwate🇯🇵 Japan
Sonmiani Satellite Launch CenterBalochistan🇵🇰 Pakistan
Integrated Test RangeOdisha🇮🇳 India
Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching StationKerala🇮🇳 India
Satish Dhawan Space CentreSriharikota🇮🇳 India
Guiana Space CentreKourou🇬🇫 French Guiana
Barreira do Inferno Launch CenterRio Grande do Norte🇧🇷 Brazil
Alcântara Space CenterMaranhão🇧🇷 Brazil
Stasiun Peluncuran RoketWest Java🇮🇩 Indonesia
Jiuquan Satellite Launch CenterGansu Province🇨🇳 China
Taiyuan Satellite Launch CenterShanxi Province🇨🇳 China
Wenchang Spacecraft Launch SiteHainan Province🇨🇳 China
Xichang Satellite Launch CenterSichuan Province🇨🇳 China
Palmachim AirbaseCentral District🇮🇱 Israel
Imam Khomeini Space Launch TerminalSemnan🇮🇷 Iran
Qom Lauch FacilityQom🇮🇷 Iran
El Arenosillo Test CentreHuelva🇪🇸 Spain
Spaceport SwedenLapland🇸🇪 Sweden
Esrange Space CenterLapland🇸🇪 Sweden
Andøya SpaceNordland🇳🇴 Norway
SaxaVord SpaceportShetland Islands🇬🇧 UK
Sutherland SpaceportSutherland🇬🇧 UK
Western Isles SpaceportOuter Hebrides🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport MachrihanishCampbeltown🇬🇧 UK
Prestwick SpaceportGlasgow🇬🇧 UK
Snowdonia SpaceportNorth West Wales🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport CornwallCornwall🇬🇧 UK
Orbex LP1Moray🇬🇧 UK
Spaceport Nova ScotiaNova Scotia🇨🇦 Canada

Editor’s note: The above table includes all sites that are operational, as well as under construction, as of publishing date.

The list above covers fixed locations, and does not include SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. There are currently three active drone ships—one based near Los Angeles, and the other two based at Port Canaveral, Florida.

Two of the most famous launch sites on the list are the Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) and Cape Canaveral (United States). The former was constructed as the base of operations for the Soviet space program and was the launch point for Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The latter was NASA’s primary base of operations and the first lunar-landing flight was launched from there in 1969.

The global roster of spaceports has grown immensely since Baikonur and Cape Canaveral were the only game in town. Now numerous countries have the ability to launch satellites, and many more are getting in on the action.

Wenchang Space Launch Site, on the island of Hainan, is China’s newest launch location. The site recorded its first successful launch in 2016.

Location, Location

One interesting quirk of the map above is the lack of spaceports in Europe. Europe’s ambitions for space are actually launched from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. Europe’s Spaceport has been operating in French Guiana since 1968.

Low altitude launch locations near the equator are the most desirable, as far less energy is required to take a spacecraft from surface level to an equatorial, geostationary orbit.

Islands and coastal areas are also common locations for launch sites. Since the open waters aren’t inhabited, there is minimal risk of harm from debris in the event of a launch failure.

As demand for satellites and space exploration grows, the number of launch locations will continue to grow as well.

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