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Telescopes, page 2 Astronomy - Telescopes, 3 of 3 Solar System, page 1

The only way to completely free from the atmospheric turbulance is to place the telescope at a location, well, free from atmosphere. In April 1990, the crew of space Shuttle Discovery successfully deployed the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in low-Earth orbit (about 600 km). Despite being only a humble 2.4-meter reflector, the space telescope is capable of producing images of extremely high resolution, about 10 times better than much larger Earth-based telescopes. The on-board instruments allow a wide range of spectrum to be observed: from near-infrared to visible light and to near ultraviolet.

Hubble Space Telescope Chandra X-ray Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope (NASA photo)

Chandra X-ray Telescope (NASA photo)

Since X-ray from universe cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, x-ray observations are always taken place high above the atmosphere. In early days, x-ray detectors were mounted on rockets and low-Earth orbit satellites. In 1999, two very powerful X-ray observatories were deployed: the NASA's Chandra X-ray Space Telescope in July 1999 and the ESA's X-ray Multi-Mirror (XMM-Newton) in December 1999. Both are designed to observe X-ray emissions from universe such as the remnants of exploded stars. The observatories are placed at high-Earth orbits, with the highest orbit of about a third of the distance to the moon. This allows long, uninterrupted observations (up to 55 hours) to be taken place and images with resolutions of about fifty times better then the near-Earth orbit counterparts can be obtained. Diagrams below show delicate details were revealed in higher resolution images produced by HST and Chandra.

Black and white image on the left show the spiral galaxy M33, taken from Palomer Observatory. The right image, taken by HST shows the delicate detail of the nebula NGC604 located at the top portion of the galaxy as indicated on the left diagram.

Credit: Ground based image: Palomar Observatory, Caltech and the STScI Digitized Sky Survey (AURA). HST: H. Yang (University of Illinois) and NASA.

M1 crab nebula
Image on the right shows the highest resolution of M1 crab nebula obtained from Roentgensatellite (ROSAT), a near-Earth orbit satellite. Image on the right was taken by Chandra shows detailed structure of the nebula.

Credit: ROSAT: S. L. Snowden, USRA, NASA/GSFC. Chandra: NASA/CXC/SAO

The data produced by the most advance observatories such as HST and Chandra gives us better understanding of our universe and some of the findings have completely rewritten chapters on the subject of astronomy.

Telescopes, page 2 Solar System, page 1


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