The Hubble Space Telescope is in orbit around the earth, completing one orbit every 97 minutes. At 5 miles per second, the speed at which Hubble is orbiting, it would be possible to travel the span of the entire United States in just 10 minutes. During its travels Hubble’s mirror catches light from space and passes it into several different scientific instruments.
Contrary to the belief by many that telescopes work by magnification of objects, the real power of telescopes is in their ability to collect more light than the human eye can collect unassisted. The size of the mirror in a telescope determines the amount of light that the telescope can capture. The larger the mirror, the more light is captured, and the better the telescope can see. Although there are ground-based telescopes with mirrors larger than Hubble’s 2.4 meter diameter, because Hubble is above and outside of the earth’s atmosphere, Hubble is able to view the universe with unsurpassed clarity.
Hubble is outfitted with several different instruments which examine the incoming light from space in different ways. Together the information gathered from the many instruments on Hubble can give a more complete picture of the universe, extending and expanding our knowledge astronomically.