Listen: Scientist Mario Livio describes the Eagle Nebula.
Listen: Livio tells how the Hubble images are created.
Jeff Hester, Paul Scowen, NASA
Newborn stars emerging from dense, compact pockets of interstellar gas in the Eagle Nebula, 7,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens.Enlarge Image
The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit.
Ten years ago the way we see the universe changed. A December 1993 repair mission by shuttle astronauts, in short, put "eyeglasses" on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Scientists operating the telescope had discovered that its mirror had a flaw — a "spherical aberration." The mirror was perfectly polished, but to the wrong specifications. As a result, the pictures that came back were blurry — a far cry from the exquisite images of distant galaxies that scientists had been dreaming about for years.
Once repaired, Hubble quickly began sending back the breathtaking images now seen in books, posters and even on a record cover by Pearl Jam.
Hubble has revealed a universe that is dynamic, explosive and ever expanding. Now, as its mission winds down, planning for the Hubble's eventual demise has begun. NPR's Michele Norris, host of All Things Considered, talks with Mario Livio, a senior scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, about Hubble's discoveries.