Washington Post article on the new era of telescopes

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Horsehead Nebula, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. One of its most beautiful images, though the discovery of a single pixel, tiny gravitational wobble or minuscule darkening of a star's light as an Earth-sized planet passes in front of it will be the biggest news of the decade.

In a related subject to the post below on Galileo, there's a nice article comprising three whole screens here on the new era of telescopes and what new telescopes are being built / planned for the near future. If I were magically able to control the entire astronomy-related budget of the world for five years, I would direct the vast majority of it towards new telescopes simply because I believe that there will be an earth-shattering change in the way we view the universe once we find one or more earthlike planets in other solar systems (hopefully ones relatively near to us), and the sooner we attain that the better. At the moment there is no destination in space where we can live without a huge amount of modification (air pressure, atmosphere, radiation, climate, etc. etc.) but if we find a place that we could explore in a manner quite similar to our own planet, our entire view of the universe would change overnight. It would be the difference between living on an island in a vast sea surrounded by nothing but icebergs, and living in an island in a vast sea surrounded by nothing but icebergs...and an inhabitable island very far away that we could perhaps explore and live on if we could just get there.

(I've written the above many times before because it's a very important subject for humanity as a whole)

In any case, at the rate we're going we will find a second Earth soon enough. Here are a few interesting parts from the Washington Post article:
This is going to be a particularly big year for telescopes, and not just because it's officially the International Year of Astronomy, featuring astronomy conferences, space-related art projects, and telescopes flooding the market at $10 and up. There will also be breaking news.
Those are the so-called "Galileoscopes". Looking forward to seeing if they can be purchased here in Korea. Offering telescopes at rock-bottom prices is a fabulous idea. And:
In March, the United States will launch a new orbiting telescope, Kepler, with the goal of discerning Earth-like planets hidden in the starlight of distant suns. Then, in May, astronauts aboard the space shuttle will make a final trip to the nearly 20-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, inserting a new camera and other instruments to squeeze a little more magic out of the first of the space-based observatories.
Kepler's the most promising mission this year.

I wish the article had put a little more time into what discovering another earthlike planet would mean for us as a whole, as this is all it has, and on the third page as well:

And, of course, the astronomers are hungry to find new planets. They have found more than 300 in the past decade -- new worlds orbiting distant stars. Almost all are gas giants, very hot, even larger than Jupiter. The next great leap will be the discovery of small, rocky, Earth-like planets.

Eventually, said John Mather, a Nobel-laureate NASA scientist who has worked on the Webb telescope, "we will find planets, around other stars, that are alive."

But besides that the more articles on astronomy the better. Not many are aware of just how close we are to embarking upon a completely new view of the universe. Only a few more years now (if that).


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP