Hubble and its Cameras: "The Wow Factor"

Max MutchlerMax Mutchler
Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Kelley Lecture Hall - Hoffberger (Directions / Campus Map)

Program Description

The Hubble Space Telescope has been on an unparalleled scientific tour-de-force over the past several decades. Hubble owes this success mostly to a prime location in low Earth orbit - above the blurring and filtering effects of the Earth's atmosphere. Hubble was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, and has been serviced five additional times by Shuttle astronauts, leaving it a much better telescope now than it was at launch. In particular, several generations of new cameras allowed for imaging of the Universe with great resolution and improving sensitivity. However, Hubble has been much more than a scientific gift horse. A steady stream of stunningly beautiful images has also succeeded in bringing a worldwide audience along for the ride. The undeniable impact (or "wow-factor") of these images made Hubble a brand name and a symbol of modern scientific exploration. The creation of the most beautiful Hubble images has not always been driven by pure science. Early on, mission leaders recognized an obligation to share the Universe with the public, and especially to inspire students - the future explorers.

Program Objectives

This talk will describe how many of the most-recognized Hubble images were part of deliberate outreach imaging programs, supported by a succession of Space Telescope Science Institute (STScl) Directors with their discretionary observing time. Although driven primarily by aesthetics, these programs were designed by experts and employed all the same best practices as Hubble science projects. Many of these outreach observations pushed the limits and drove improvements in Hubble imaging, becoming prime examples of observing strategy and data processing for other scientists to follow. The resulting data is some of the highest quality available from Hubble, and continues to enable archival research. Discussion will include next steps for Hubble, as well as the future of space exploration, including the imminent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Program Format

  1. PowerPoint presentation with discussion
  2. Question & Answer opportunity

Suggested Supplementary Material


Fun Videos with Jimmy Fallon and Milky J


New York Times - Unforgettable Hubble Space Telescope Photos:

The Guardian – Out of this world: why the most important art today is made in space:

Illuminated Universe – Imaging the Lagoon Nebula with Hubble:

General Websites for Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope:
Hubblesite -
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope -

About the Presenter

Max MutchlerMax Mutchler has been working on the Hubble Space Telescope for 28 years - its entire mission. He is currently the head of the Research and Instrument Analysis Branch at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScl) in Baltimore, on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Mutchler is an expert on Hubble's cameras, and has conducted a wide range of projects with them. He is a member of the Outreach Imaging Team (formerly the Hubble Heritage team), which has produced many of the iconic images for which Hubble is famous. He also specializes in imaging of Solar System objects, and is currently involved in observing active asteroids and main-belt comets with Hubble. In addition, he's a member of the team that discovered several moons of Pluto using Hubble, and asteroid "6815 Mutchler'' was named in honor of his role in these discoveries.