The Hubble Space Telescope continues to make valuable discoveries after more than twenty years in orbit around Earth. Hubble recently showed a fourth moon orbiting Pluto. Astronomers temporarily named it P4. The moon is the smallest to be discovered around the icy dwarf planet. Astronomers estimate that the moon is from thirteen to thirty-four kilometers across. They first saw it in a Hubble photo taken on June twenty-eighth. The American space agency NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in nineteen ninety. Reaching that day took years of work. Ed Weiler is NASA's chief astronomer. Mr. Weiler has worked closely with the Hubble program since nineteen seventy-nine. He says that when the Hubble was launched, it represented an increase in the ability of other telescopes on Earth by a factor of ten. He says the last time in astronomy that something like this happened was when Galileo put the first telescope to his eye. NASA's first chief of astronomy was Nancy Grace Roman. Ms. Roman joined NASA in nineteen fifty-nine. She led the effort that resulted in the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope.She says astronomers had been wanting to get observations from above the atmosphere for a long time. Looking through the atmosphere is somewhat like looking through a piece of old, stained glass. The glass has defects in it, so the image is blurred from that.The Hubble telescope orbits about five hundred fifty kilometers above Earth. Ms. Roman says she still remembers the first images that it captured. For her, the image that was most striking was the center of a globular cluster. Each individual star and its color could be seen. The Hubble Space Telescope has helped expand our knowledge of the universe. It helped scientists estimate that the universe began about fourteen billion years ago. Earlier estimates had placed it between ten and twenty billion years old. The Hubble telescope also confirmed the existence of black holes. These are extremely dense masses believed to exist at the center of most galaxies. Their gravitational pull is so strong, they absorb light. The Hubble Space Telescope completed its one millionth scientific observation in July. NASA is building a new space telescope to look even deeper into the beginnings of the universe.
For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal.