I’m no longer a
blog virgin! Lets see how this works. Here are some thoughts I had on
Hubble’s upgrade, and so much more. It starts off a bit like a
research paper (guess I wish I was still in school) then veers a little
into left field. That’s OK though, that’s where I like to hang out…
The Hubble Space Telescope during its nineteen years of service has
produced the most iconic images of our universe that everyone has come
to know, but the best has yet to come. Three hundred fifty miles above
the earth, in a high orbit, the greatest telescope of all time has just
been released by shuttle Atlantis after its fourth and final servicing
mission. Yesterday the STS-125 crew set Atlantis down at Edwards AFB
after a challenging but very successful fourteen days and five
This great observatory has been re-upped with a new generation of
scientific instruments, practically rendering it a new machine, giving
it a healthy ten more years. Hubble has a new gyro system to
accurately and precisely aim at the farthest plots of our
universe. A Cosmic Origins Spectrograph has been installed and,
without even knowing what is does, sounds awesome. This scientific
instrument will be a window to the past. It will show us the workings
of the early elements in primitive space, the prelude to the orchestra,
a masterpiece of creation and life.
The icing on the new Hubble cake is the new Wide Field Camera 3, or
WFC3. This newer generation camera will capture wavelengths of light
with much greater sensitivity, and also in ranges not visible to its
predecessor. This new camera will see visible light, the more
energetic ultraviolet light from the youngest and hottest stars, but
also the cooler infrared regions of the spectrum, emitted from deep
space. This will make visible the oldest galaxies and nebulas on the
outskirts of the universe. Their light, as we see it, stretched to a
mere infrared glow as it has traveled for millions of years through an
ever-expanding space. The product of the WFC3 will be stunning new
views of the celestial systems that we already know, but also countless
new discoveries will be made.
I’ve been so excited about this mission, because the information
was so available to me. Following every aspect of the mission in real
time on NASA TV (and I cannot lie, constant Twitter updates from NASA
on my cell phone) has beat out anything else on TV for 14 days! That’s
real suspense. It just excites me imagining the wonders of working in
space and seeing the gratefulness and skill of the few that get the
privilege. With all this having been said, the STS-125 crew members
are my heroes. I feel like I’ve gotten to know them and the work that
they did, and the things they achieved for us down here were amazing.
I’ve learned a lot and it has continued the tradition of seeding new
impressions in mind.
So the question remains: where does this fascination come from and
what purpose does it serve? Now this I ask myself often and I do not
know the answer. Maybe someday I will.
For now I have a conclusion that I am comfortable with. We’ve been
given these eyes and these minds to teach ourselves, enabling us to be
the guardians of this tiny humble celestial speck we call home. Our
potential is special, given our imagination and the technology to
realize it, that we can accomplish things before we can even understand
why. The gifts we have been given should not be underappreciated.
This morning lying in bed I thought of these words and decided to do
a blog. Ooh, did I really say that? So I got the bulk of my thoughts
out quickly before they went away, then got up to make pancakes. When
I sat back down and read this I realized that I still am an
“odd child.” And I say that with a smile on my face. The spirit of
exploration is a wonderful thing to have. Seeing the natural world
like a child makes it so new and big and beautiful, but also make one
realize how small we are. We are not the boss, the Earth owns us.
Ok, a moral of my story, kind of. We’ve been given everything
necessary to thrive, and we have, but it’s a long way to fall. If we
continue to abuse what is not ours, then put on your galoshes because
we could be in store for another long rain. You never know. The book
has been written by what we can see out there and mostly by what we
can’t see, and now it is ours to read. Most importantly, reading it
means understanding it and if you understand it, you will listen.
Now, hopefully I will be able to find someone to read this!
25 May 2009