Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the department of physics at Yale University. She is also the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics. She previously worked as a senior astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. This piece was written in association with The Op-Ed Project, an organization seeking to expand the range of opinion voices to include more women.
Nearly everyone I meet has heard of the Hubble Space Telescope. Many have seen its beautiful images of the birthplace of new stars and planetary systems, or of the "gravitational lenses" that reveal a mysterious "dark matter" that dwarfs the amount of matter bound up in stars or galaxies.
This year's Nobel Prize in physics went to three scientists who used Hubble to detect the mysterious dark energy - a sort of fifth fundamental force, previously unknown - that we now think is causing the accelerated expansion of the universe.
Hubble pictures and the knowledge the HST generates have changed our view of the cosmos and reached nearly every schoolchild in America.