Thursday, October 2, 2008

Time to retire the Hubble Space Telescope

Edwin Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope has served well in its short tenure and will for a while provide more breathtaking photographs. Nothing lasts forever, especially mechanical devices. It just isn't safe or cost effective to send a crew for repairs. Perhaps there may be an outside opportunity for robotic repairs. But there are new and improved instruments on the horizon and who knows...maybe a Hubble Space Telescope II. Technology just keeps improving and perhaps better gyroscopes and batteries will be invented.

The Hubble Space Telescope is getting old now since its rocky initial problems and became operational in 1993. It’s time to be replaced and such a plan is now being developed. The HST has done well indeed, for in the first five years of use, it has examined 10,000 celestial bodies, taken more than 100,000 photographs, and revealed 50 billion galaxies in the universe. Its 13 billion light years range has been exhausted. Granted its computer was updated but it was outdated while being installed. So scientists are thinking of retiring HST and making bigger and better improvements. For one thing, the diameter of the optics will increase from eight foot to 27 feet and, even better, relocate the telescope--place it further away from light interference.

There are complimentary telescopes that have supported HST: Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) and Chandra X-ray telescope.

First Photo From New Space Telescope, SIRTF

History of X-Ray Astronomy

And the new James Webb Space Telescope [NGST (New Generation Space Telescope)]

Hubble's Mission and Beyond

The James Webb Space Telescope

Competition for Hubble and Hubble-like space telescopes is the feasible and cost effective "Dome C" site [two miles above sea level] right here on Earth so claim a group from the University of New South Wales. A long time enemy of terrestrial telescopes was atmospherics and thus mountains were sought such as in Chile, Hawaii, or the Canary Islands. The Hubble was free of atmospherics but prone to maintenance periods. The costs for Hubble were enormous: The craft itself, deployment, repair trips, replacement parts. The proposed telescope [The Douglas Mawson Telescope] would be located in the Antarctic and at a far less cost: About 700 million as compared to Hubble's initial launch of two plus billion. The structure would be made from concrete-like "icecrete" and the mirrors made from architectural window glass. Astronomers and the like wouldn't even have to visit the telescope for all could be done remotely by computers. There may be a hearty group of watchers and maintenance people to monitor the site. Incidentally, the Antarctic telescope would be limited to infrared and optical observations. Sounds like a good idea. Any drawbacks...other than freezing?

Astronomy in the deep freeze

Hubble Telescope

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