On This Day 20 May

By TheBoldAge. Published 2020-05-20
From shoes being made for left and right feet through to satellite images from the Hubble Space Telescope it's an eventful day OTD

1990 - first Hubble Space Telescope image sent of space

HST (Hubble Space Telescope) was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and continues to operate. It has a 2.4 metre mirror with the main instruments onboard observing ultraviolet, visible and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

HST was meant to launch in 1983 after funding started in 1970, however technical delays, budget challenges and the Challenger disaster in 1986 resulted in the delay to 1990. It was estimated to cost US$400 million but ended up costing about US$4.7 billion at the time of its launch.


Weighing in at 11,110kg and having dimensions of 13.2m x 4.2m it travels at 7.59km/s (27000km/h). It is estimated to end its service some time between 2030 and 2040.

You can see the first image sent back from HST below, however the first images indicated a problem as they were not as sharply focused and the quality not nearly as high as the scientists expected. While this was an issue it could be compensated using image processing techniques until it could be rectified.

1.3mm - that's the distance the lens was out of position by that resulted in the problem!


Initially data was stored on HST using good old reel-to-reel tapes, these being eventually replaced by more modern data storage devices. Each day data is transferred from HST to another satellite which then downlinks the data to the Goddard Space Flight Centre - 140 gigabits of data each week!

If you want to see where HST is at the moment have a look at the below link which shows its location and current speed, among other data. link

And for those of you that are inclined to get into the data available you can have a look at some of the available datasets from HST via the below link. Do let us know of any discoveries you make!


Have a look at the below video on YouTube where BeyondScience show 26 of the best images captured by HST. Amazing to find out that the cameras on HST are actually B&W with the colour being added by NASA using the wavelengths in the images they receive. Taking photoshop skills to the next level!

Other events on this day

  • 1310 - shoes made for both left and right feet
  • 1873 - Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis granted a patent with the design that would lead to blue jeans
  • 1882 - Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy form the Triple Alliance
  • 1899 - first speeding infraction by a taxi driver in NY - 12mph
  • 1932 - first solo transatlantic flight by a woman - Amelia Earhart
  • 1940 - first prisoners arrive in Auschwitz camp
  • 1956 - first US airborne hydrogen bomb dropped in the Pacific Ocean
  • 1989 - martial law imposed in China following demonstration in Tiananmen square
  • 1990 - first photographs from Hubble Space Telescope sent
  • 2002 - East Timor became officially independent
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