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May 11, 2007 8:38 AM   Subscribe

"Clearly we need a much bigger telescope to go back much further in time to see the very birth of the Universe." The venerable Hubble space telescope is going to be replaced by what looks like a honeycomb on a box of chocolates. Of course, if it takes more pictures like this (XL), nobody is going to complain about its looks.
posted by BlackLeotardFront (39 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
[cue hysterical "save hubble" blather]
posted by wfrgms at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2007


This was covered on NPR last night. For temperature reasons the orbit is going to be 5x times the distance of the Moon. That's crazy! Or maybe I'm just more used to LEO/GEO sats because that's what I deal with at work. Are there many other sats out at this insane distance?
posted by DU at 8:59 AM on May 11, 2007


That really looks more like a honeycomb rising from a coffin, or maybe on a wakeboard. Jeez, get it right.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2007


Don't forget the video of the way it unfolds. Fantastic stuff.
posted by Skorgu at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2007


When I was in the sixth grade, my best friend and I went to Space Camp. We actually went in 1986, just after the Challenger accident. (and the same summer that the movie came out). I was in nerd heaven. My group (Group Pluto) had the distinction of having the worst mission failure in the history of Space Camp, to that point. We crashed our shuttle and failed all of our mission objectives. Oh, and we refused to use our Mission Titles, instead referring to each other by an amalgam of Star Trek and Star Wars names. I was Spock.

One of our activities was to see the construction of the Hubble space telescope. The tourguide explained that the telescope would so powerful, that it was hypothetical that you could see other galaxies and even (if such a thing was possible) to the edge of the universe.

I meekly raised my hand and asked, "If you could see the edge of the universe, wouldn't that support the Big Bang theory?" He agreed that it would.

"Um," I asked. "Would we be able to see life on other planets if life existed there?" Again, he said that it was possible.

Lastly, I asked, "How is our government prepared to deal with the religious rioting and general chaos when this science disproves 90% of all religions on the face of the earth?" Some of the other kids nodded in agreement.

"Let's move on." was all he came up with.

Later, my counselor told me that he'd never considered such a thing, but he'd ask around and see if anyone had taken this into account. I don't think he ever got back to me on that.

It's my theory that the Hubble telescope was never flawed. I believe they saw shit out there that our governments decided we weren't ready for yet. I believe that we saw God's beard and it was a falsie.
posted by ColdChef at 9:21 AM on May 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


Why spend all that time and energy rioting when you can just deny the science?
posted by DU at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2007


Why do the "big bang" and the creation story have to be mutually exclusive?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2007


MeFi Space Camp alumni represent! ColdChef, I assume you went to the one in Alabama? I went to the one in Florida in '89 or thereabouts.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2007


Why do the "big bang" and the creation story have to be mutually exclusive?

Patents
posted by srboisvert at 9:40 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why do the "big bang" and the creation story have to be mutually exclusive?

Well everyone agrees there was some sort of 'big bang', that could be what happened right after God said "let there be light!"

But the real trick is explaining how the light then expanded, galaxies formed, stars lived and died, the Sun and the Earth came to be, life moved from the sea to the land, dinosaurs lived and died, mammals inherited the earth, cavemen killed all the mammoths, the glaciers retreated, Babylon, Ur, China, Egypt and Rome all rose and fell, then Jesus came to finally save everyone (except those people, you know, in the other galaxies and stuff)...in just 6000 years.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:41 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man, I thought it said the James Woods space telescope.

Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin' your ass back there... When you were looking at that other galaxy... you get a little wood?

posted by quin at 9:50 AM on May 11, 2007


Why do the "big bang" and the creation story have to be mutually exclusive?

Because in "the creation story" there's an unneeded entity as well as a bunch of events that have no evidence supporting them.
posted by DU at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2007


...in just 6000 years

Because in "the creation story" there's an unneeded entity as well as a bunch of events that have no evidence supporting them.


Only if you're a literalist, in which case you probably think fossils were planted by the devil anyway.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2007


It's not the size, dammit. Size queen scientists.
posted by stavrogin at 10:11 AM on May 11, 2007


I apologize for the creationism derail. This new telescope looks fantastic.
posted by ColdChef at 10:14 AM on May 11, 2007


Only if you're a literalist...

Are the 10 Commandments open to interpretation too, or just the more laughable parts?
posted by DU at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2007


Problem: NASA administrators (of God Knows What religious pesuasion-- but we do know their politics) are taking a beating for their completely short sighted, anti-scientific decision to let Hubble fall apart.

Solution: propose wonderful new telescope much better than Hubble in all respects, but which you have no intention of ever building.
posted by jamjam at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2007


Make Your Own Paper Model of the JWST Satellite
posted by Morrigan at 10:21 AM on May 11, 2007


But the real trick is explaining how [stuff happens]...in just 6000 years.

YHVH fast-fowarded through the boring bits.
posted by bonehead at 10:28 AM on May 11, 2007


How will they protect the exposed mirror from debris?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2007


How will they protect the exposed mirror from debris?

There's way less crap floating around at L2 than in low Earth orbit. It'll probably be fine.
posted by bshort at 10:52 AM on May 11, 2007


Is it me or does that last picture seem to have a bit of a vertical bias in the distribution of stars in the middle of the frame?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:10 AM on May 11, 2007


That's no telescope
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:11 AM on May 11, 2007


YHVH fast-fowarded through the boring bits.

Proof that the Tivo is His Chosen Appliance.
posted by zippy at 11:34 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


If the JWST goes up and works, "more pictures like this" will be an overwhelming understatement. With a 6.5 meter mirror, it will basically make the Hubble look like a child's toy.

However, right now it's very much over budget, and some people worry it's not exactly going to have the smooth road from conception to completion that the first link would seem to imply.

Also, even if it goes up on schedule and works perfectly, that's a good six years away. To those of you grousing about the "Save the Hubble" crowd, I would argue that alone is a good reason to keep the Hubble operational a while longer.

That, and the fact that Hubble pays for the other half of my monthly rent.
posted by kyrademon at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2007


For temperature reasons the orbit is going to be 5x times the distance of the Moon. That's crazy! Or maybe I'm just more used to LEO/GEO sats because that's what I deal with at work. Are there many other sats out at this insane distance?

The temperature is, I suppose, part of it, but primarily the distance is because it needs to be at a Lagrangian point, L2 to be exact. They're situated proportional to the distance and mass differential of the Earth and Sun. L1 and L2 are both near the Earth but in opposite directions along the Earth-Sun axis. They represent points of relative gravitational equilibrium, meaning it's easier to keep a satellite in position. Easier = cheaper and longer-lived.

Several satellites have already been sent to various Lagrangian points, primarily L1, but L2 is a comer.

As for Hubble, whether or not we "save" it, it's beyond its service life and we can only extend it and cross our fingers. The servicing mission will be able to replace the gyros, but I don't think we really know how much longer it's going to stay operational. Indefinitely, certainly not.

Maybe if they brought it back on a shuttle, like they talked about doing back in the 80s ... maybe they could send a Buran, because it's automated ... maybe I could get a pony ...
posted by dhartung at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2007


Perhaps we saw God's beard and she was giving us the finger.

The deployment/unfolding thingy does look pretty cool, but putting it out at L2, AFAIK, means if anything goes wrong it's screwed, since we can't get servicing missions out there to give it some new lenses or gyros or whatever.
posted by casarkos at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2007


Hopefully, dhartung, the service mission will be able to do significantly more than just replace the gyros - they're planning to install two new instruments (COS and WPFC3) and they may also be able to repair STIS, ACS, or both. Yes, the mission life can't be extended indefinitely, but the instrument additions and repairs would go a long way towards extending its useful functional life a significant number of years. Given how long it will take to get the JWST up - if it goes up - I think that's a very worthwhile aim. Even with adaptive optics getting progressively better and other space telescopes going up every now and then, the Hubble is still producing scientific data that really can't be obtained anywhere else. There's a reason it's oversubscribed by a factor of 6.
posted by kyrademon at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2007


How will they protect the exposed mirror from debris?

There's way less crap floating around at L2 than in low Earth orbit. It'll probably be fine.

I thought Lagrangians tended to develop space-dust bunnies because gravity doesnt suck there.
posted by jamjam at 12:51 PM on May 11, 2007


The JWST is going to be nothing short of amazing if it works as planned. Unfortunately, the engineers only have one shot at getting this puppy setup correctly. Unlike with Hubble where the Shuttle could service it at ~320 miles up, we won't be able to do the same thing with JWST.

Such is the cost of bleeding edge technology. Hubble was horribly over-budget when it was first launched, but I don't think you'll find many people who look back and think, "damn, we were over budget, we should have canceled that thing!" It's been worth every damned penny, IMHO.

And yes, it is too bad that we won't be able to bring Hubble back as was originally planned for ~STS-144, which incidentally was to be Columbia's farewell mission before retirement somewhere around 2010. The original plan, up until we lost Columbia, was to bring Hubble back and place it in the Smithsonian. What a treasure that sucker really is.

Oh, and by the way: Space Camp, Alabama: twice. Oh yeah, baby. Oh yeah. I might add that I would have had a perfect mission (CMDR), had some hot-ass chick not cheated on my exam and ended up as my batbrained PLT. Damn her.
posted by tgrundke at 12:51 PM on May 11, 2007


Right, kyradaemon, there are upgrades planned for SM4 as well. But besides the gyros and brand new batteries, upgrades don't really extend the operational life. Theoretically after SM4 it should be good until 2013, and obviously they wouldn't be doing it if they weren't going to get a significant extension of operations, both in terms of cost and the now more-concerning risk to crew. And yes, in fact, they may not do it in the end.

My point, though, was that I don't think there's a huge extent to which these missions compete with each other. Cancelling SM4 would free up money for JWST, or cancelling JWST for SM4, and either would step up the pressure for success of the remaining mission. But the marginal cost of SM4 on top of the billions spent every year to maintain orbiter operations isn't that large, so in shuttle terms it's more about mission risk factors and success estimates than dollars. And no matter what we do with Hubble, it won't last forever, so I wholeheartedly support the Next Generation Space Telescope, i.e. JWST. Something must come after.
posted by dhartung at 4:48 PM on May 11, 2007


Thanks for putting up that extra stuff, people. I posted this as I was leaving for work and was suddenly terrified that it was either incomplete or a double. Thanks to you guys it's neither.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:43 PM on May 11, 2007


The original plan, up until we lost Columbia, was to bring Hubble back and place it in the Smithsonian.

Don't they have one on display already? I bet most people think it's the one that took all the photos. Just like the Lunar Lander they have.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 PM on May 11, 2007


Is it me or does that last picture seem to have a bit of a vertical bias in the distribution of stars in the middle of the frame?

I noticed that - I think that despite being globular, it's still got an orientation, so it's probably vertical-ish relative to the frame of reference Hubble has. If that makes any sense.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:56 PM on May 11, 2007


The big danger with JWST is that, in going massively over budget, it will kill all non-JWST-related astronomy funded by NASA. Which is a lot of science. And the thought that they're sending it out to L2, and something might go wrong, and there goes NASA's astronomy budget....

I can understand why astronomers are nervous about this telescope.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:34 AM on May 12, 2007


I used to work with the engineer that was head of the team designing the imaging sensor for JWST. His eyes lit up whenever he talked about the project, and given the chance he would talk about it a lot.
The sad thing is, his main job was making the imagers for smart bombs. He didn't like to talk about that so much. Funny world.
I really hope everything works out.
posted by Eddie Mars at 11:34 AM on May 12, 2007


There are several Hubble-related artifacts at Air & Space, smackfu. Gallery 111 has a 1/5 scale model as well as a backup mirror and camera, and Gallery 114 has a full-scale engineering model.
posted by dhartung at 5:43 PM on May 12, 2007


jamjam said 'I thought Lagrangians tended to develop space-dust bunnies because gravity doesnt suck there.'

I think only L4 and L5 develop 'dust bunnies' like Trojan asteroids. This would be because they're stable points. L1, 2 and 3 are unstable so stuff won't randomly just sit there - if something moves a bit away from the point, say towards Earth, it'll only get pulled more in that direction.

(Although L1-3 are unstable it's still a lot easier to park a satellite there than other places)
posted by edd at 3:36 AM on May 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thank you very much, edd.
posted by jamjam at 3:29 PM on May 14, 2007


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