By Colby Nicholson
Everyone knows about the Hubble Space Telescope, but a lot of people don’t know we actually produced a team of 3 similar telescopes to orbit the earth alongside it. Since the launch of the team scientist have made leaps and bounds in understanding the universe around us, from observing black holes to photographing distant bodies, these telescopes are necessary for the advancement of modern cosmic study. Something even less people know is that our only ways of viewing the cosmos in its true form, are almost 30 years old, and aging fast. This became a harsh reality for scientist in mid-October as technical issues halted the scientific process of our two remaining telescopes, including the Hubble.
The Compton telescope was lost in 2001 when it’s gyroscope failed, the Spitzer telescope has been drifting so far from earth that we will lose contact with it next year. While these losses were to be expected, the difficulties with the Hubble and Chandra telescopes were major blows to scientists worldwide. This week both telescopes experienced problems with their gyroscopes, the Chandra went into safe mode and recovered, but the Hubble won’t be back in full operation for a couple weeks.
The telescopes are extremely important since we cannot see the cosmos from earth the way we can from space. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere interferes with most forms of light emission before it reaches the surface, making most of the cosmos and its properties unobservable to us here on Earth. The telescopes that currently orbit our planet look for specific types of visible light and all their images are studied separately to understand all the different properties of the bodies they focus on.
With no kind of funding going towards NASA, astronomers are struggling to piece together a new telescope. The space telescopes are not only extremely expensive to make, but extremely expensive to send to space. NASA’s current patch, the $10 billion Webb telescope, has been delayed so many times since its conception in the 90’s, its earliest expected launch is sometime in 2021. On top of that NASA’s part time replacement for the Compton telescope is now 5 years passed its original mission length. Upon the loss of the Hubble we will have no way of viewing ultraviolet rays coming from space
At best this incident with the Hubble is a simple warning sign of its mortality, scientist are now faced with the fact that it won’t last forever, and action must be taken towards the continuity of our cosmic excellence.