Space Telescopes

A space telescope is a telescope that is launched into space and put into orbit. They launch telescopes because the earth’s atmosphere obstructs and messes up the light and waves from distant stars and planets. A space telescope can see further with less obstruction than a telescope that is placed on earth. Despite the obvious benefits and advantages to launching a telescope into orbit, there are only three currently in orbit, which is out of the original four. Four telescopes were launched as part of the Great Observatories plan, including the most famous Hubble Space Telescope.

The idea of a space telescope was first put forth by Lyman Spitzer in 1946, but it took decades before the technology and funding caught up with the idea. Spitzer was put in charge of the project at NASA in the mid-sixties, and was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, so to speak. But it was Charles Pellerin that actually thought of the Great Observatories plan in the mid-eighties, and he is the one that spearheaded the project that got all four telescopes into orbit. The one that is no longer in orbit is the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was de-orbited in 2000, when one of the gyroscopes failed. It crashed to the earth, and the parts that did not burn up on re-entry went into the Pacific ocean. The other three that are still in orbit are the Hubble, the Chandra-X observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.  The Hubble will stay in orbit for a long time.

The Earth’s atmosphere is what allowed the first cell of life to come into existence, and allowed this cell to evolve into basic life forms, and from basic life forms came more advanced forms, and eventually, those life forms because dinosaurs, and then mammals and after some millions of years, humans. So clearly, we all know that the Earth’s atmosphere is necessary and good. Nobody would ever claim otherwise! Except, there’s a small problem with the atmosphere. An almost miniscule problem. That problem is the way it bends light, absorbs light, radiates its own light, and in hundreds of little ways, ruin the visibility of distant stars and deep space. Scientists have, of course, long been aware of these problems, but the only real solution is to send the telescope beyond the atmosphere so it can take unaltered, unadulterated, photos of stars, planets, nebulas, and other celestial bodies. This idea was first formulated in the 1940s but didn’t really begin to have life until four decades later when the four space telescopes were sent into orbit. Of the four space telescopes, three are still in orbit, with the Hubble Space Telescope being the most famous and the one most likely to stay in orbit for the longest, since it’s been approved for a new servicing mission that will prolong its mission.

Space telescopes are invaluable tools to astronomers and physicists. The reason the Hubble is so famous is that it collects and sends back images from the visible section of the electromagnetic spectrum, but the other three space telescopes did just as much work in other areas of the spectrum.

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Telescopes | Astronomy | Cosmos Telescopes | Astronomy | Cosmos