Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hubble

Full name: The Hubble Space Telescope, sent into space 20 years ago today.

It has made images such as this a part of our lives (for those who are paying attention):

That is the Carina Nebula. (Photo from here)

Edwin Hubble was one of the very first Rhodes Scholars. He had a masters degree in Spanish, was a lawyer, he quickly gave up the law, earned a Ph.D in astronomy and he served in the Army in the First World War. Dr. Hubble was the first to recognize that what other astronomers were nebulae in our galaxy were, in fact other galaxies. Astronomers before WW1 had noted that some of the nebulae they had observed were redshifted, the stars were redder than they should have been. Dr. Hubble realized that the redshift meant that those galaxies were moving away and that the Universe was expanding.

It was very appropriate to name the Space Telescope after Dr. Hubble. The telescope is so well known that if you mention "the Hubble", a large number of people outside of the scientific community will know what you are talking about.

One of the saddest things about the retirement of the Shuttle is that the Hubble will not be retrieved at the end of its service life; it will be de-orbited and allowed to burn up as a useless bit of space junk. For what the telescope has added to our understanding of the Universe, it deserves better.

Hubble will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope. The JWT will be at the 2nd Lagrange Point, or nearly a million miles from Earth. The risk is that if they fuck up in grinding the mirrors of the JWT the same way that they fucked up in grinding the mirror for the Hubble, the JWT will not be as useful as they hope, for unlike Hubble, nobody can fly to fix the JWT.. Presumably, the mirror-makers are well aware of this.

If you feel like reading:

Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae

Hubble: Imaging Space and Time

1 comment:

montag said...

My favorite Hubble picture was the cloud formation known as "The Finger of God". It let me know exactly where I stand in this universe.