Posted tagged ‘astronomy’

Happy Birthday, HST!

April 27, 2010

posted by: Damon Diehl

It’s been twenty years since the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched on April 24, 1990. The Connecticut Post has a really nice article describing how the engineers who designed HST still remain emotionally attached to the project.

As is well known, when the first images arrived from HST, it was discovered that the primary mirror was flawed. The flaw was caused because of an error in the reference optics used by Perkin-Elmer to test the mirror. Rochester, NY has two notable connections to fixing this problem. First, Eastman Kodak’s Commercial and Government Systems Group (now a part of ITT Space Industries) had independently manufactured a back-up mirror for the HST. Unfortunately it was not feasible to replace the primary mirror while the HST was in orbit. Second, Jim Fienup (now a professor at the University of Rochester Institute of Optics) developed “phase retrieval” computer algorithms that were able to diagnose and digitally correct the images Hubble was sending back. This information was later helpful in designing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) that was added to Hubble to correct the spherical aberration.

The Year of Astronomy

December 22, 2009

2009 is (well at this point it basically was), the International Year of Astronomy. One of the cooler outcomes of this was “The Gallileoscope” Project. For twenty bucks (plus about $15 shipping) they’ll provide you with a decent refracting telescope kit that you can assemble in about twenty minutes. Although this telescope is inexpensive, it’s not cheap. In particular it uses “achromatic lenses,” meaning that the images you see aren’t going to be a smeary mess of colors.

Better yet, the Optical Society of America (OSA) has a donation challenge going on. If you buy your scope through their website, then they will match your purchase with a donation to the charitable OSA Foundation. To sweeten the deal the telescopes are actually cheaper through OSA—$24 including shipping.

You just can’t lose, folks.