Astronomer proposes Hubble replacement

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Thursday, January 6, 2005

Hubble Space Telescope

Colin A. Norman, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science February 2nd, presented the Hubble Origins Probe (HOP) as a replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Concerning the shuttle's estimated one billion dollar cost and 65 month time-frame for deployment to earth orbit, Norman said: "The groundbreaking science, the cutting edge technology generated in the development of new instrumentation, the ability of Hubble science to engage the interest of the public, and its impact on the imagination of students, make it worthwhile to invest this sum of public funds to complete the last chapter of Hubble's remarkable legacy."

HOP will tackle three of the most central intellectual issues of our age; the nature of dark energy, the nature and distribution of dark matter, and the prevalence of planets, including earths, around other stars.

Norman noted during the testimony that HOP would be, essentially, a lighter copy of the Hubble Space Telescope and would include two instruments that were scheduled for installation on the Hubble: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), plus the new Very Wide Field Imager (VWFI) to be paid for and provided by Japan.

The VWFI has a field of view 17 times greater the advanced camera on board the Hubble now, and is 3-4 times more sensitive at critical wavelengths. This will provide for mapping 20 times faster than achievable by the Hubble at present.

The COS would make possible the identification of the invisible portion of "ordinary matter," potentially residing in gigantic gas clouds discovered by the Chandra X-ray Telescope.

"The WFC3 has greatly enhanced power for discovery in the blue and the red region of the spectrum and will significantly enhance studies of galaxies and stars. Its infrared capability is essential to studies of dark energy," Norman added.

"The decision is obvious. We must continue with the Hubble adventure to explore these great questions further, to understand more fully our remarkable Universe and our place in it. We must do this with intense determination and energy and thus continue to inspire new generations with the wonder and thrill of exploration and discovery," concluded Norman.

Colin Norman was educated at the University of Melbourne and Oxford University. He has been a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute since 1984.

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