NASA HISTORY: NASA’s First Chief Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman Was ‘Mother of Hubble’

By  //  April 9, 2021

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Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018)

In this image from the early 1970s, Dr. Roman is shown at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s first chief astronomer is known as the ‘Mother of Hubble.’ (NASA Image)

(NASA) – Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018), NASA’s first chief astronomer, is known as the “Mother of Hubble.”

In a time when women were discouraged from studying math and science, Roman became a research astronomer and was instrumental in taking NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from an idea to reality and establishing NASA’s program of space-based astronomical observatories.

In the above image from the early 1970s, Dr. Roman is shown at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Named in honor of the trailblazing astronomer Edwin Hubble, the Hubble Space Telescope is a large, space-based observatory, which has revolutionized astronomy since its launch and deployment by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990.

Far above rain clouds, light pollution, and atmospheric distortions, Hubble has a crystal-clear view of the universe. Scientists have used Hubble to observe some of the most distant stars and galaxies are yet seen, as well as the planets in our solar system.

Hubble’s capabilities have grown immensely in its over 30 years of operation. This is because new, cutting-edge scientific instruments have been added to the telescope over the course of five astronaut servicing missions. By replacing and upgrading aging parts, these servicing missions have greatly extended the telescope’s lifetime.

Telescopes have a particular range of light that they can detect. Hubble’s domain extends from the ultraviolet through the visible (which our eyes see) and into the near-infrared. This range has allowed Hubble to deliver stunning images of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects that have inspired people around the world and changed our understanding of the universe.

This photograph of the Hubble Space Telescope was taken by the space shuttle Atlantis’ robotic arm during Servicing Mission 4. (NASA image)

Hubble has made more than 1.4 million observations over the course of its lifetime. Over 18,000 peer-reviewed science papers have been published on its discoveries, and every current astronomy textbook includes contributions from the observatory.

The telescope has tracked interstellar objects as they soared through our solar system, watched a comet collide with Jupiter, and discovered moons around Pluto. It has found dusty disks and stellar nurseries throughout the Milky Way that may one day become fully-fledged planetary systems and studied the atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars.

Hubble has peered back into our universe’s distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth, capturing galaxies merging, probing the supermassive black holes that lurk in their depths, and helping us better understand the history of the expanding universe.

In its over 30 years of operation, Hubble has made observations that have captured humanity’s imaginations and deepened our knowledge of the cosmos. It will continue to do so for years to come.