Today is the Hubble Space Telescope's birthday — it's been exactly 24 years since it was launched into orbit. The optical telescope captures drop-dead gorgeous images of space, and is a constant source of both new science and new computer wallpapers.

Star Cluster NGC 2074 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Image credit: NASA/ESA/M. Livio


The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24th, 1990. It was released in orbit the following day.

Hubble was carried into orbit by Space Shuttle Discovery. Image credit: NASA

Discovery released Hubble into orbit on April 25th, 1990. Image credit: NASA

The first photos back from Hubble were underwhelming. A crucial flaw in the main mirror was producing fuzzy images, breaking the hearts of astronomers everywhere.

Servicing mission 1 to install corrective optics. Image credit: NASA

After ground-based modelling and testing, corrective optics were developed to compensate for the mirror. The first service mission to the Hubble installed these optics — yes, that means the Hubble Space Telescope wears glasses. After that, it was beautiful picture after beautiful picture, in a stream of breathtaking astronomy.

More than 3,000 stars in the Orion Nebula. Image credit: NASA/ESA/M. Robberto/Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team


Later servicing missions added additional instruments, and replaced gyroscopes and batteries. A final servicing mission was almost cancelled after the Columbia disaster, but was rescheduled after public pressure to repair the beloved telescope.

Saturn and its rings in ultraviolet. Image credit: NASA/E. Karkoschka

The 3 light-year tall Mystic Mountain in the Carina Nebula. Credit: NASA/ESA/M. Livio/Hubble 20th Anniversary Team

Empty space is anything but: the Deep Field image captures countless galaxies. Image credit: NASA/ESA/R. Thompson

The Sombrero Galaxy (M104), 28 million light-years from Earth. Image credit: NASA/Hubble Heritage Team

A multi-telescope composite image of Galaxy Cluster Abell 520. Image credit: NASA/ESA/CFHT/CXO/M.J. Jee/A. Mahdavi

Pismis 24 in the core of the NGC 6357 nebula, 8,000 light-years from Earth. Image credit: NASA/ESA/J. Maíz Apellániz

What are some of your favourite Hubble Space Telescope images?