August 10, 2004

Hubble Has Lost UV

Although it isn't blind yet, Hubble has lost a significant instrument that allowed it to see the UV spectrum. The UV module - STIS - lasted two years longer than it was designed to. But it is a major loss because much of the UV spectrum is blocked by our atmosphere. Being able to see UV is a part of the justification for a space telescope.

A new spectrograph for Hubble called "the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph" is ready to be installed but has been mothballed along with the Shuttle fleet. This new spectrograph is ten times as sensitive as STIS was.

The primary science objectives of the [Cosmic Origins Spectrograph] are the study of the origins of large scale structure in the universe, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and the origin of stellar and planetary systems and the cold interstellar medium.

Last month we reported that an expert panel advised NASA to "take no actions that would preclude a space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope." Whatever the risk/benefit analysis was then, one variable has changed. The scientific cost of not going just went up.

Posted by Stephen Gordon at August 10, 2004 01:36 PM | TrackBack
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