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Looking into Deep Space from Space (2012-03) Print
March 2012
s1.JPGs2.JPGHow many people are aware that there is a huge telescope floating and flying high up in the sky and working hard for us?  How many people know what this eye has discovered for us?  How many people know that this eye cannot be brought back to Earth when it retires?  Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a big step of human towards understanding if we are alone in this universe or indeed we are not alone.  These are scary thoughts but totally stimulating. Our CPD (continuing professional development) seminar held on 21 March 2012 reviewed this piece of great human work briefly. 

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The review was in tandem with our previous session on the International Space Station (ISS).  Both HST and ISS are launched in similar timeframe onto Low Earth Orbits (LEO).  HST is named after Edwin Hubble, an American scientist who convinced Albert Einstein that our universe was not static but expanding!
A key finding of HST is that the observable universe is about 13 to 14 billion years old.  It has found many galaxies and so many that they are just like sands on a beach.  Some of the galaxies are still developing. 

HST is about the size of a school bus.  It weighed over 10,000Kg on Earth.  Taking it up from Earth to the orbit was a big US Space Shuttle mission.  Once in orbit, it needs very little energy for it to keep going.  It has close to zero weight in space.  

The instruments installed originally in the telescope have since been repaired for proper functioning and replaced with more modern and powerful versions over the last 22 years.  One of the repairs were just in time for us to see a comet slamming into Jupiter in 1994 and making a visible dent on the gaseous giant in our neighbourhood. Then in 2007, the telescope found a planet which was only 150 light years away from us.  However, this planet is 2.5 times of the size of Jupiter (that is very huge) and yet it orbited its sun with a period of 3.5 Earth days only.  How can a giant and gaseous planet be so close to its sun?  Our solar system is not like that at all.   A discovery has given birth to more mysteries. 

HST is a huge tool and it consumes a million dollars a day to operate.  It may be close to its economic life after 22 years working hard up in the sky.  Whilst we think it should work longer like us such for 35 to 40 years before retirement, it has already outlived the space shuttles that carry astronauts to maintain it.  This is sad because it cannot go home when it retires.  NASA has planned to send a robot up to de-orbit it and guide it to plunge into the ocean.  This may happen next year 2013.



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