NASA’s new servicing mission to make Hubble 90 times more powerful

January 9th, 2008 - 1:18 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan 9 (ANI): NASA is all set to carry out a servicing mission for the Hubble Telescope in August 2008, which will make it 90 times more powerful than before.

This mission, designated STS-125, would install two new scientific instruments and replace the observatory’s batteries and gyroscope, which will equip it with far greater capabilities than before to explore the nature and history of our universe.

STS-125 would involve a crew of seven astronauts aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, with equipment, tools and new instruments to service the venerable telescope, which orbits 350 miles above the Earth.

The 11-day shuttle mission features five spacewalks. During those spacewalks, astronauts will install two powerful new science instruments, a new set of the gyroscopes that help stabilize the telescope, and batteries and thermal blankets to extend Hubble’s operational life until at least 2013.

Also, if all goes well, a degrading Fine Guidance Sensor unit, one of three aboard Hubble, will be replaced with a refurbished unit to help maintain the telescope’s ability to point and focus on astronomical objects throughout the universe.

The new instruments to be installed on the telescope are the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, or COS, and the Wide Field Camera 3, or WFC3.

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), in particular, will allow Hubble to see fainter and more distant galaxies than anything it has seen before, shedding light on the early universe.

This could allow Hubble to see galaxies so far away that we see them as they were just 400 million years after the big bang, said Sandra Faber of the University of California in Santa Cruz, US.

The second instrument - the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, can obtain ultraviolet light spectra of very faint, distant objects such as quasars huge black holes that are glowing as they gobble up surrounding gas.

COS will also probe the “cosmic web,” which is a large-scale structure of the universe that has its form determined by the gravity of dark matter and can be traced by galaxies and intergalactic gas. COS will explore how this web has evolved over billions of years and the role it plays in the formation and evolution of galaxies.

The mission will also see astronauts attempting the first ever on-orbit repair of two existing instruments - the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

“Our two new instruments, plus the hoped-for repairs of STIS and ACS, will give astronomers a full ‘tool box’ with which to attack some really profound problems, ranging from the nature of dark matter and dark energy, to the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets around other stars,” said David Leckrone, Hubble senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. (ANI)

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