The Hubble Space Telescope, which is now celebrating 30 years of stunning discoveries, has yielded 1.4 million observations and provided data that astronomers around the world have used to write more than 17,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, making it the most prolific space observatory in history, NASA said.
Thirty years ago, on April 24, 1990, Hubble was carried aloft from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the space shuttle Discovery, along with a five-astronaut crew.
Deployed into Earth orbit a day later, the telescope opened a new eye onto the cosmos that has been transformative for our civilization.
A project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency), Hubble's top accomplishments include measuring the expansion and acceleration rate of the universe and finding that black holes are common among galaxies.
Characterising the atmospheres of planets around other stars; monitoring weather changes on planets across our solar system; and looking back in time across 97 per cent of the universe to chronicle the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies are some of its other top accomplishments.
Unlike any space telescope before it, Hubble made astronomy relevant, engaging and accessible for people of all ages.
The space telescope's iconic imagery has redefined our view of the universe and our place in time and space.
"Hubble has given us stunning insights about the universe, from nearby planets to the farthest galaxies we have seen so far," said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"It was revolutionary to launch such a large telescope 30 years ago, and this astronomy powerhouse is still delivering revolutionary science today. Its spectacular images have captured the imagination for decades, and will continue to inspire humanity for years to come."
Unencumbered by Earth's blurring atmosphere, the space observatory unveils the universe in unprecedented crystal-clear sharpness across a broad range of wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, NASA said.
Hubble's longevity can be attributed to five space shuttle servicing missions, from 1993 to 2009, in which astronauts upgraded the telescope with advanced instruments, new electronics and on-orbit repairs.
The observatory, with its suite of cameras and other instruments, is expected to stay operational through the 2020s, in synergy with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, NASA said.
On April 24, the Hubble celebrated its 30th year in orbit by premiering a never-before-seen view of two beautiful nebulas named NGC 2020 and NGC 2014.
The giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbour (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away.