Science Highlights

Hubble has affected every area of astronomy. Its most notable scientific discoveries reflect the broad range of research and the breakthroughs it has achieved.

Quick Facts

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has offered us stunning images that capture the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe, but Hubble is far more than pretty pictures. Its suite of scientific instruments make it an orbiting observatory that gathers wavelengths of light from ultraviolet, through visible, and into the near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Hubble’s sensitivity to such a broad range of wavelengths makes it one of the most valuable and productive observatories in the history of astronomy.

Developed as a partnership between the United States space program and the European Space Agency, Hubble orbits 320 miles (515 km) above Earth’s surface. Its location above the distorting effects of our atmosphere allows Hubble to observe astronomical objects and phenomena more consistently and with better detail than is attainable from most ground-based observatories. The telescope's sensitive instruments can view objects near and far – from small colliding asteroids in our solar system, to distant star-forming galaxies that date back to when the universe was only three percent of its current age. Hubble observations have made key discoveries that characterize the structure and evolution of the universe, galaxies, nebulae, stars, exoplanets, and our solar system neighbors.

From dark energy and black holes to starbirth and the expanding universe, these videos explore the science behind Hubble's observations.

Well into its third operational decade, Hubble continues to be extremely productive. It exceeds one million observations, from which astronomers have written more than 21,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers. More than 1.2 million publications reference those original papers – a number that increases by an average exceeding 150 per day. Every current astronomy textbook includes contributions from Hubble.

In its three-plus decades of exploration, Hubble has generated as many questions as it has answered – uncovering new mysteries while expanding our understanding of the universe in ways we never imagined.

The stories you find here represent a small sample of Hubble’s thought-provoking discoveries and images. Selecting this set from the thousands of awe-inspiring Hubble observations was difficult, but they serve to highlight some of Hubble’s greatest scientific achievements to date.

Hubble Science Highlights

Learn about some of Hubble's most exciting scientific discoveries.

Cepheid star in Andromeda galaxy (Hubble observations)

Discovering the Runaway Universe

Our cosmos is growing, and that expansion rate is accelerating.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field image

Tracing the Growth of Galaxies

Hubble is instrumental in uncovering the various stages of galactic evolution.

Hubble image left to right: Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune

Studying the Outer Planets and Moons

Hubble’s systematic observations chart the ever-changing environments of our solar system's giant planets and their moons. 

Hubble view of an expanding halo of light around star v838 monocerotis

Seeing Light Echoes

Like ripples on a pond, pulses of light reverberate through cosmic clouds forming echoes of light.

Hubble observations of galaxies' centers

Monster Black Holes are Everywhere

Supermassive black holes lie at the heart of nearly every galaxy.

Hubble observations of Carina Nebula section

Exploring the Birth of Stars

Hubble’s near-infrared instruments see through the gas and dust clouds surrounding newborn stars.

An oval of colorful tendrils of gas and dust stretching from lower-left to upper right. Ova's outer ring is rusty-red tendrils, followed by a yellow/lime-green ring of tendrils. Oval's center is bright turquoise with white tendrils bisecting it. All set on a black background.

The Death Throes of Stars

From colliding neutron stars to exploding supernovae, Hubble reveals details of some of the mysteries surrounding the deaths of stars. 

depiction of gravitational lensing

Shining a Light on Dark Matter

Hubble’s observations help astronomers uncover the underlying structure of the universe.

Thirty proplyds in a 6 by 5 grid. Each one is unique. Some look like tadpoles, others like bright points in a cloudy disk.

Finding Planetary Construction Zones

Hubble’s sensitivity can reveal great disks of gas and dust around stars.

Three views of Pluto. Three mottled circles in colors of yellow, grey, rusty-orange, and black.

Uncovering Icy Objects in the Kuiper Belt

Hubble’s discoveries helped NASA plan the New Horizon spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto and beyond.

Comma shaped curved cloud of gases in bright white edged with bright-pink star forming regions, and threaded with rusty-brown tendrils of dust at center and throughout the comma shaped merger. All set against the black of deep space.

Galaxy Details and Mergers

Hubble’s observations reveal a menagerie of galaxies.

Blue background. Center of image is a disk blocking the light of a star. Below and just to the left of the disk, at about seven o'clock, is a bright white point. This is PDS 70b.

Recognizing Worlds Beyond Our Sun

Hubble’s unique capabilities allow it to explore planetary systems around other stars. 

animation of a binary asteroid with a shifting tail

Tracking Evolution in the Asteroid Belt

These conglomerates of rock and ice may hold clues to the early solar system.