EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) Eyewitness News Joe Bird talks with NASAs Director of Physics about the 30th Anniversary of the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, what its done for science, and what we might be able to see with it in the future.
Joe Bird: Well, a special something is turning 30 today. NASAs iconic Hubble Space Telescope commemorates three decades of discovery. And, joining is live this morning via Skype from NASA is NASAs Director of Astrophysics, Dr. Paul Hertz. You are responsible for the agencys research programs and missions necessary to discover how the universe began, how the universe works what a job you have, Dr. Hertz!
Dr. Paul Hertz: Thank you very much. Its got to be the coolest job in the world.
Joe Bird: I tell you, it sounds absolutely fantastic. Lets talk about Hubble, because I know you use Hubble a lot. Youve seen a lot of the images Hubble sends us. The views of the universe that we get from Hubble they have not only changed the way we think of space, but they have basically even rewritten some science books. What are some of the most important discoveries?
Dr. Paul Hertz: Well, when we launched Hubble, we werent sure how fast the universe was expanding. One of the first things we did was measure that very accurately, and by it backwards, we now know the universe is 13.8 billion years old. When we launched Hubble, we didnt know if black holes were common or rare in the universe. Hubble discovered that every galaxy has a super-massive black hole. Black holes are as common as galaxies in our universe. And, when Hubble launched, we hadnt discovered a single planet around another star. Now, we know there are planets around just about every star. Weve found over 5,000 of them. Hubble was the first telescope to observe the atmosphere of a planet around another star, was able to measure water and carbon monoxide in that planets atmosphere. So, thats just a few of the things that Hubble has done.
Joe Bird: And, the list really continues on with Hubble, and what its done and what it will do. So, lets talk closer to home really fast here, with this one. So, Hubble has also taken a look at planets right here in our region. What have we learned from our solar system, and even our own moon? What changes have we seen over all these years?
Dr. Paul Hertz: Well, Hubble has been watching our solar system for the entire 30 years its been up there. Weve seen the great red spot on Jupiter that Galileo discovered. Weve seen it shrinking over time. One of the moons of Jupiter, Europa, we have seen water plumes erupting from the surface of that moon, with Hubble, telling us about the ocean under the surface. And, we can see that theres even salt in those water plumes, letting us know there might be nutrients in that ocean. Maybe conducive for life, somewhere else in our solar system. When we launched Hubble, we only knew about one moon of Pluto. Hubble discovered four more moons of Pluto. We now know of five. So, when the new Horizon spacecraft flew by, it was able to study all of those moons, with Hubble. And, you mentioned our own moon. Because Hubble has an ultraviolet camera, and, its one of the very few there are, because ultraviolet light cant reach the surface of our Earth, the atmosphere absorbs it. So, a space telescope can take pictures in ultraviolet. With ultraviolet pictures, we can find resources on the moon, such as minerals, or possible water, that astronauts will be able to take advantage of when the U.S. returns to the moon.
Joe Bird: Now, we didnt almost have these nice, sharp images today, because there was a flaw when Hubble made it up into space with those mirrors. Thanks to astronauts, that was all fixed. So, Hubble lives on to 30. How is it doing?
Dr. Paul Hertz: Hubble is doing great! As you pointed out, its been serviced by astronauts five times, actually. The last servicing was in 2009. At that time, the astronauts upgraded all the science instruments, replaced all the aging systems lie batteries and gryos that hold the telescope steady. So, Hubble is in great shape right now. Its a hundred times more powerful now than when we launched it, because of those upgraded instruments. Everything is working fine. In fact, everything is still redundant. So, we can suffer the eventual aging failures. Were confident Hubble will last through the 2020s. well be able to use it in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope, NASAs next large space telescope, which well be launching next year.
Joe Bird: All right, doctor. Thanks so much for your time this morning. We greatly appreciate it. I wish I could meet you and come join you for a board game over your shoulder and just talk a little more about Hubble. We greatly appreciate your time, today. Thank you so much.
Dr. Paul Hertz: My pleasure and everybody should check out nasa.gov/hubble for lots more information.
Joe Bird: All rightie.
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