Join Professor WifPic, the four-armed alien being, for five hands-on
interactive lesson plans based on Hubble Space Telescope data and
technology now available to science educators at all levels.
Developed by teachers, scientists, and engineers at the Space
Telescope Science Institute, the lesson plans include Hubble Deep
Field (middle level); Student Astronaut Challenge (middle level);
Solar System Trading Cards (elementary level); Stars: Birth, Life and
Death, and Rebirth (high school level); and Aiming the Hubble Space
[from The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics Education News]k
The Space Telescope Science Institute has made lessons about "Hubble Deep Field," "Student Astronaut Challenge," "Solar System Trading Cards," "Stars: Brith, Life, Death, and Re-Birth", and "Aiming the Hubble Space Telescope. They are becoming available on-line.
The Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) is the follow-on to the Einstein Observatory as an imaging x-ray telescope. It will have higher angular resolution by a factor of 10 (similar to the gain of the Hubble Space Telescope over ground-based observing) and better sensitivity by a factor of 100. Its Web site describes AXAF itself and the AXAF Science Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
The Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) study responds to the HST & Beyond report (Dressler et al., 1996, avail. STScI), which calls for 1) continued HST operations for visible and UV, 2) an IR telescope to examine the origins of galaxies and stars, with a strong guest investigator program, and 3) interferometers to find and obtain thermal IR spectra of extrasolar planets. At the American Astronomical Society meeting in January 1996, NASA Administrator D. Goldin announced that NASA would study 2) with an aperture much larger than 4 m. The first results are available and a formal report is in preparation.
It appears feasible to build a radiatively cooled 8 m telescope with a deployable segmented primary mirror, launched by 2007 on an Atlas IIAS class expendable vehicle to the Lagrange point L2, and covering 1-5 microns. With a sensitivity of K magnitude = 31, it could observe supernovae at z<12, the initial burst of star formation in globular clusters to z=15, the objects that ionize the intergalactic medium to z=30, and the formation of galaxies and clusters of galaxies to z=30. For point sources the NGST could be 100 times faster than HST. It would include wide field diffraction limited cameras and low to medium resolution multiobject spectrometers. Shorter and longer wavelength coverage (with a goal of 0.5 to 20 microns), and additional instruments, are under evaluation.
A variety of ISOCAM results from the Infrared Space Observatory are available, along with links to the results of other experiments.
A tour of Mauna Kea with its telescopes is available, photographed
from the ground and from
a helicopter by
Richard Wainscoat of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, staff.
Progress on the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Gemini telescope is also visible, including photographs taken every 15 minutes.
The Keck II Telescope, like its sibling Keck I, uses a mirror composed of 36 hexagonal pieces of glass, individually polished and assembled to form a perfectly parabolic reflecting surface with an effective diameter of 10 meters, or nearly 33 feet. This segmented mirror is much thinner, and therefore lighter in weight, than a solid mirror could be, which is the key to building such a large instrument.
In addition to doubling the amount of observing time available at the Keck Observatory, Keck II will allow a wider array of observing instruments to be used. Scientists have designed and are building three specialized spectrographs--instruments for recording an object's spectrum--for use on Keck II that will make possible an observational program with great flexibility and range.
The Near-Infrared Spectrograph will be able to record spectra from extremely faint objects at wavelengths just slightly longer than are visible to the human eye. DEIMOS, a powerful multi-object spectrograph, will be able to record spectra from up to 100 objects simultaneously. And the Echelle Spectrograph and Imager will have the ability to record a spectrum over an extremely broad range of wavelengths. These, together with the instruments of Keck I, are arguably the finest astronomical instruments in the world. Together, they allow each astronomer to customize his or her observations to suit the astronomer's individual needs.
In the long term, Keck I and Keck II have the potential to work together as an interferometer--a system in which light from one telescope is combined and interferes with light from the other telescope. Scientists can extract extremely high-resolution images from this interference. Because Keck I and Keck II are some 85 meters (nearly 280 feet) apart, they would have a resolution equivalent to a telescope with an 85-meter mirror, or about 0.005 arc seconds at a wavelength of 2 microns.
In February 1996, the Italian Space Agency will launch an x-ray observatory, Satellite per Astronomia X (SAX). It will be sensitive to a wider range of x-rays than past satellites. It will include both wide-field and narrow-field cameras.
In June 1996, the High-energy Transient Experiment (HETE), with participation from the U.S., France, Italy, and Japan, will study x-rays that may come from the regions of gamma-ray bursts and also monitor those regions in the ultraviolet.
The Advanced X-Ray Facility (AXAF) continues on schedule for a launch in 1998.
NASA's X-Ray Timing Explorer was launched in late December 1995. It carries an All-Sky Monitor as well as two other packages for more detailed observations. It is especially sensitive in the 2 to 200 keV region and can respond and record x-ray events to an accuracy greater than one millisecond.
The All Sky Monitor, built at MIT, sweeps 80 per cent of the sky every 90 minutes, monitoring the intensities and spectra of the brightest sources, of which there are about 75. When a flare appears, perhaps from an x-ray nova with matter flowing from one star to its companion, the two other packages can be turned to it within hours.
These other instruments, one from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the other from the University of California at San Diego, work together to provide an x-ray telescope with a 1 degree field of view and time scales from microseconds to days.
The next refurbishing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope is to install two "second-generation" instruments: the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) for the University of Arizona and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The mission is scheduled for 1997. NICMOS will give Hubble the capability for the first time to observe in the infrared.
NICMOS contains three cameras to operate simultaneously. The cameras provide adjacent fields-of-view with different pixel sizes. Each of the three detectors is a 256x256 infrared array cooled with solid nitrogen-2 and thermoelectrically. Various filters, polarizers and prisms/gratings (known as grisms) will give spectroscopic capability between 0.8 micrometers and 2.5 micrometers.
STIS is to provide two-dimensional spectra in the ultraviolet and visible.
A third-generation instrument, an Advanced Camera for Surveys, is planned for installation on HST in 1999. The decision on which of the current instruments will be replaced has not yet been made. It is designed with special attention to providing a wide field of view, sensitivity in the infrared band to detect highly redshifted quasars, high resolution, and high detector efficiency.
The European Space Agency's International Space Observatory (ISO) is an infrared satellite that will improve on the IRAS satellite's resolution by a factor of 10 and the sensitivity by a factor of 1000. It was launched in November 1995 into a highly eccentric orbit that keeps it out of the Earth's radiation belts for 16 hours each day, necessary for the instruments to operate at full sensitivity. It carries a 60-cm-diameter telescope. Its instruments are sensitive to the 3 micrometer to 200 micrometer part of the infrared, so will be able to study especially objects in the temperature range of 10 to 1000 K. Observations will include solar-system objects, interstellar dust, protostars, active galaxies, and quasars.
The instruments include:
Its orbit, with a period of 24 hours, has a perigee of 1000 km and an apogee of 70,000. It should be able to track individual objects for up to 10 hours. It carries enough liquid helium to cool the instruments until about November 1997.
Other planned infrared space experiments are as follows:
The Space Telescope Science Institute puts new Hubble Space Telescope pictures on line. The telescope is working perfectly.