The Space Telescope Science Institute is celebrating its 40th anniversary

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In 1981, NASA selected the Johns Hopkins Homewood University campus in Baltimore, Maryland, for the location of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). The STScI would serve as the science and operations center for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (then known as the Great Space Telescope). Nine years later, in 1990, Hubble launched, and for the past 31 years STScI has provided information about Hubble to the astronomical community and published Hubble’s revolutionary discoveries and inspirational images to the world. As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, STScI looks forward to the future, including the launch of NASA’s next flagship mission, the James Webb Space Telescope in October 2021, as well as other efforts.

“Over the past 40 years, STScI has teamed up with NASA and the astronomical community to advance scientific discoveries,” said STScI Director Kenneth Sembach. “A lot has changed in the field of astronomy during that time, because Hubble has revolutionized our understanding of astrophysical phenomena. We have also grown and changed to meet the needs of the astronomical community, create new avenues for research, and engage the public in the wonders of the universe. I can’t wait to see what the future will be like as we look back at many more years of Hubble’s operations, the launch of Webb, and the upcoming Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope. “

STScI is best known for its role in the Hubble Mission. As a science operations center, the institute enables scientists around the world to make the most of Hubble’s unique abilities to conduct cutting-edge science. STScI staff strives not only to maintain, but also to continuously improve Hubble’s operations, ensuring that the telescope provides quality data for years to come. The scientific staff of the institute also conducts their own research, producing hundreds of peer-reviewed articles each year, and helping guide initiatives that guide the future of astrophysical research.

“In 1976, a board from the National Academy of Sciences proposed the radical idea of ​​STScI running Hubble. In collaboration with the scientific community and NASA, the new organization’s only job was to advocate that science,” commented Matt Mountain, president of the University Astronomy Research Association (AURA). ), led by STScI. Today, no one doubts the value of that ancient NASA decision to create STScI to launch a science program for the Hubble Space Telescope. Guided by the science of the astronomical community, Hubble has become a scientific “gold standard” and global brand, precisely because STScI has retained scientific independence. and the integrity entrusted to AURA and its partner Johns Hopkins University. “

In planning Hubble’s launches and scientific operations, STScI played a key role in changing the way astronomy was conducted. Unlike previous space missions, Hubble was open to observers around the world. Accordingly, the institute encouraged the growth of astronomical teams, which provided opportunities for more researchers. Under the leadership of its first director, Riccardo Giacconi, STScI made a pioneering effort by taking a new approach to opening up astronomy to general users. The world’s first digitized catalog of the sky was created to guide telescopes, and complex automation was developed to plan, schedule, and archive observations. This became a guide for future NASA space astrophysical missions.

In 2001, STScI was selected to oversee the science and mission operations of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch later this year. Webb will be the largest, most powerful and most complex space telescope ever built and launched into space. It will complement and expand Hubble’s discoveries, with infrared detectors that will allow him to observe the first galaxies, as well as look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems form today.

The STScI will also play a key role in scientific operations for NASA’s Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s. The Roman Space Telescope will provide a panoramic field of view that is a hundred times larger than Hubble’s, which will lead to the first wide-field maps of space resolution.

“Supporting multiple force missions is STScI and we are using this breadth for the benefit of the astronomical community. The researchers want to take advantage of all the opportunities, and we are helping them with that, ”said STScI Deputy Director Nancy Levenson. “We are working to make these missions and their observations available to all astronomers, in order to advance science as a whole.”

A key element of the institute’s work is Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST). Founded at the beginning of the Hubble mission in 1990, it was expanded in 1997 to include data from other ultraviolet and optical space astronomical missions. Today, MAST provides astronomers with access to data from more than 20 space missions and Earth observatories.

STScI also plays a vital role in the development of technologies for future observatories. The Russell B. Makidon Institute of Optics Laboratory, established in 2013, is conducting research focused on enabling direct images of exoplanets using large segmented telescopes in space, including high-contrast coronagraphy, optical mirror alignment, deformable mirror sensing and wavefront and digital digital control. multidisciplinary spectroscopy devices

In addition to its scientific leadership, STScI strives to be a leader in diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I). The institute is a pioneer in the use of the dual anonymity procedure, in which scientists reviewing requests while observing Hubble do not know the names or locations of the proposers. The process has proven so successful in achieving gender parity that NASA commits it to all of its astrophysical missions in the future. The review process is just one element of DE&I’s broad commitment, as STScI seeks to model the workplace of the future, while expanding participation in space exploration.

STScI is a leader in the field of astronomical communications and terrain. The Institute’s public information team uses a unique approach to scientific discoveries, data, and mission experts to produce a wide range of materials, from awe-inspiring images and press releases to videos and detailed articles. Additional products and learning experiences, grounded in evidence-based learning strategies and externally evaluated, are used by museums, libraries and other organizations across the country, as well as the general public. The STScI retrieval team maintains an online presence for basic science missions, supports the Space Astronomy Summer Program (SASP) for students, and uses new virtual reality (VR) creation technologies and other interactive experiences. STScI also leads NASA’s multi-institutional Universe of Learning project.

To learn more about the history of the Space Telescope Science Institute, visit

The Space Telescope Science Institute is expanding the boundaries of space astronomy by hosting the Hubble Space Telescope Science and Operations Center, the James Webb Space Telescope Science and Operations Center, and the Nancy Grace Science and Operations Center for the Future Roman Space Telescope. The STScI also houses the Barbara A. Mikulski Space Telescope Archive (MAST), a NASA-funded project to support and provide the astronomical community with a variety of astronomical data archives, and is a data repository for Hubble, Webb, Kepler, K2, TESS missions and much more. The STScI for NASA is administered by the University of Astronomy Association of Washington, DC