Quick! Name a telescope! The title of this item may have been too much of a tip-off, but if you were to ask the typical bystander, chances are the Hubble Space Telescope would be the first name to come to mind.
One reason behind Hubble's popularity has to do with the "triumph-over-adversity" angle: The space telescope was launched with an off-kilter mirror, but was revived in a series of spacewalks. It had a close brush with death several years ago, but underwent a final fix last year and is now better than ever at the age of 20.
The biggest reason for Hubble's iconic status would have to be the iconic imagery it has sent back over those 20 years: the Pillars of Creation, the Eye of God, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field ... heck, even the Cosmic Finger of Friendship. Hubble's pictures have become powerful cultural symbols of the final frontier, just as 19th-century Western landscape paintings portrayed the grandeur of an earlier frontier.
So it's fitting that the European Space Agency's Hubble team is marking the 20th anniversary of the telescope's launch with a pop-culture contest. Until the end of this month, anyone can submit imagery that references Hubble. So far, the entries run the gamut from an Andy Warhol tribute, to ads and album covers, to "Hubble-on-burnt-toast."
Winners will be selected by the end of July in several superlative categories: most artisitic, weirdest, funniest, largest and smallest. The prizes include an iPod Touch preloaded with Hubble videos and images, plus Hubble-themed books, prints and postcards. Check out the European Hubble website for submission instructions, rules and restrictions.
If you need further inspiration, click through our collections of "Hubble's Greatest Hits" and the "Latest, Greatest Hits." And if you need further let's-go-crazification, check out The Onion's article on the Hubble Space Kaleidoscope.