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Staff Report: Hubble Space Telescope

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2001
Building A Better Hubble

Richard Gaughan, Contributing Editor

As darkness falls, a solitary man trudges up the hillside to a lonely domed building. His breath sends clouds of mist into the chilly air as he enters the building and flicks a switch, splitting the dome open to reveal the night sky. He walks up to the 20-foot telescope, puts his eye to the eyepiece and views the mysteries of the universe.

The lonely astronomer at the telescope remains the prototypical icon of scientific exploration. Yet the next decade's crown jewel of astronomy would distort abominably if a human breath crossed its field or the heat from a nearby human hand struck its mirrors. No lone astronomer will peer through its eyepiece at the heavens; instead, scientists and engineers at a control room in Maryland will operate it with collaborators from around the world. And there will be no lonely walk up the hillside, because this telescope will be nearly four times as far away as the moon...

The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
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