Y’s man and resident science guru, Marty Yellin spoke about the Hubble Telescope. After years of development, and at a cost of approximately one billion dollars, the Hubble was launched into space on April 24, 1990 to assume an orbit 320 miles above the earth.
The Hubble was powered by solar panels and had overcome the main problem of maintaining an incredible small variance in its pointing accuracy. The construction did not use any optical lenses as these would not allow in all light wave lengths, which were necessary to gather all relevant data. Instead, it relied on a very large mirror. But this was no ordinary mirror, but the smoothest mirror ever constructed that took seven years to manufacture and refine. And even then, the mirror was not an optimal size, which would have been larger. Space limitations on the shuttle made such a larger mirror impossible.
The Hubble travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per hour and is subject to all types of external forces such as solar wind and gravitational pull. It has allowed us, or the scientists at Johns Hopkins University where the data from the Hubble is finally funneled, to discover incredible amounts of information including such things as the time of the Big Bang, the enormity of the universe, that a black hole exists at the center of each galaxy and how stars and planets are formed.
But Hubble is reaching the end of its days. The stress of the various forces are taking their toll and before too much longer it will burn up.
Q. Who was Hubble?
A. An astronomer. In 1922 he discovered the existence of other galaxies for the first time. He died around age 80, but is recognized as a founder of modern astronomy.
Q. As the Hubble is in the Milky-Way Galaxy, how did it take a picture of the Milky-Way?
A. I don’t know.
Q. What happened to Perkin-Elmer?
A. It has been purchased and repurchased by a number of corporations.
Q. How can you visualize the speed of space, which you say is greater than the speed of light?
A. Space can travel faster than the speed of light and does so. Things in space are limited to the speed of light. Think of a balloon with dots on it. As the balloon expands that is like space. The dots on it are like the suns and the planets.
Q. If someone was looking at us from another galaxy or planet, what would they see?
A. A telescope is a kind of time machine. You are seeing things as they were not as they now are. How far back you are seeing depends on how far away the telescope is from its target object.
Q. What will happen when the Hubble dies?
A. It will burn up.
Q. How do the pictures from the Hubble get here?
A. They are digital so they can be transmitted very quickly.
Q. What creates gravity?
A. Einstein said that it is like a trampoline when an article hits it there is a depression created, which attacks other objects. But the newer theory is that it is leaking into our universe from another universe. Gravity is still a mystery.
Q. Isn’t the Hubble in a low orbit?
A. Yes and that is by design so we could reach it again for repairs. Eventually it will come down due to the forces on it including gravitation. It will not be replaced in its present form, but by an infra-red telescope that will probably be in place by 2022.
Q. What is solar wind?
A. The sun like all stars is undergoing constant nuclear explosions that throw off particles into space. These particles and the force behind them make up solar wind.
Q. What is the chance of our GPS getting shut down by another country?
A. All countries use GPS so that would not be the primary target, but rather it would be satellites especially spy satellites. There are a number of anti-satellite weapons as well as some protective measures that can be taken against those weapons.