In response to Fandango’s Who Won the Week posts, I have been looking at my own newsfeeds.
A nice, benign story for the week before Christmas.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and for the last thirty years has been delivering images such as the Lagoon Nebula
(click through for the full res image – I promise it is worth it).
Well. just a note that Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Telescope, is due to be launched on Christmas Eve.
Everything about Webb is bigger and better. While Hubble’s mirror was “only” 2½ m (8′) in diameter, Webb’s optics include a 6½ m mirror – that’s over 20′!
At a cost of $10 bn, and at half the weight of Hubble, Webb also comes with an impressive array of infra-red sensors to look even deeper into the universe. It will be able not just to find planets outside of our solar system, but to analyse their composition. Not to mention just the thirty-year jump in technology which has seen us become a race reliant on microprocessors for every facet of our lives.
This all fascinates me, because it’s the area in which I studied, in which I started my career.
Never heard of James Webb? He was the chief of NASA during those key Apollo years (1961-8). I tend to see the science of a telescope as discrete from the engineering of a space rocket, but I guess NASA see a link, and this period was certainly its heyday.