Upon Further Inspection

The Hubble’s Lament

At 32 years old, the telescope reflects on being dethroned by the James Webb.

by Ginny Hogan
The Hubble telescope responds to the popularity of the James Webb photos.
Xinhua News Agency, QAI Publishing/Getty Images

Yeah, yeah. Last week, the James Webb telescope offered us five “never-before-seen” photos from outer space, and the internet went wild. I get it — Webb is the hot new thing — but he’s hardly the first telescope to make its way out of the stratosphere. Not to make this about me, but I, the Hubble Telescope, have been orbiting the Earth since 1990. And I’m still out here. Five stupid photos? I’ve taken 1.5 million. Give me some credit!

If you could see into the past on Planet Earth, you’d know I was once a star in my day, too. Rory Gilmore was 32 in the Netflix reboot, and her life was just beginning. (Meanwhile, the Webb has never known the pain of having to wait a whole week for the next episode to air on the WB.) My mirror may be much smaller, but I can loop around the Earth in just 95 minutes. Probably because I don’t stop to take constant selfies.

What does Webb do that I can’t? Snap some extra gas and dust? Honestly, you could slap an Instagram filter on me and I’d be almost as good as the Webb images. Besides, who’s to say sharper photos are even better? Haven’t you heard of impressionism? A full-on Monet? Clueless?

NASA spent $10 billion on Webb, but if I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t just see in infrared — I’d see in seven dimensions. Also, I’d buy Costco stock. With age comes wisdom: I now know it was a mistake not to start investing earlier.

I don’t mean to sound bitter, though. My anger is sadness at its core. Not the existential emptiness of seeing high resolution images of the vast expanse of space — that’s just my backyard — but the kind that comes from scrolling on Instagram too long and realizing your much-younger sorority sisters are now engaged. Everybody wants to compare my photos to Webb’s. Oh, Webb found the second star in the Carina Nebula! Wow, Webb got the best shot of Stephen’s Quintet! Big whoop. Has social media taught us nothing? Comparison is the root of dissatisfaction. People are even saying that my photos look like the “before” picture in a Botox ad compared to Webb’s, but 32 is way too young for that. (Isn’t it? Right?)

Taylor Swift — yes, we get music in space — once bravely asked the question, “Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” And it seems to this humble Hubble the answer is no. Now I know how Taylor felt when Olivia Rodrigo released Sour. And I can’t even release a 10-minute version of one of my best images and ruin Jake Gyllenhaal’s life. I’ll continue my lonely orbit until they retire me into the Pacific Ocean, sometime in the late 2030s. If outer space weren’t the very definition of “out to pasture,” I’d say that’s where I was headed. But truthfully, it’s where I’ve always been.