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NASA Space Science

How To Build a Telescope That Trumps Hubble 185

An anonymous reader writes "In cleanrooms around the country NASA and its contractors are building the James Webb Space Telescope, a marvel of engineering scheduled to launch in 2014. This gallery shows the features that will allow Webb to take the universe's baby pictures in infrared — most notably an 18-segment mirror and a 5-layer sunshield. I can't wait until Webb settles into its Lagrangian point way out beyond the moon and gets to work."
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How To Build a Telescope That Trumps Hubble

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  • by ubergeek65536 ( 862868 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:25PM (#35225074)

    I have just as much proof that the universe is infinite as they do that it's not. That is to say exactly none. We will never be able to prove that it is infinite by measurement just and we will never be able to prove that it is finite. Like I said a hunch isn't exactly proof with either argument. A year ago the "universe" was about ten times smaller than it is now. Once the new telescope is functional I'm going to make the wild speculation that to will get bigger yet.

  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:25PM (#35225080)

    Was space created by the Big Bang, or did the Big Bang happen inside of space that already existed?

    Observe something that is more distant in space-time than the big bang, and settle the matter!

    It is fine to speculate, but if you want coherent scientific models of the universe, you need to either assume the 13.7 billion light-year horizon or else show by observation or by theory that the horizon does not exist.

    The ideas of an infinite theoretical universe aren't incompatible with a finite observable universe, but people who build telescopes are going to be concerned exclusively with the practical aspects of the latter, even if they believe in the former.

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @05:32PM (#35225180)

    SDSS was good science, making great use of relatively humble tools. But, it takes an ecosystem - and heavyweight instruments like the Webb, or the LHC, will illuminate things that can later be confirmed with the broader toolset of more pedestrian instruments, things that would just be considered a wild theory unless they came with backing from observations on an instrument like the Webb.

    You also need to face up to the reality that if the Webb were scrapped at inception, it wouldn't have meant $6B extra would have been supplied to general astronomy, only a small fraction of that money would have made its way around the community.

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday February 16, 2011 @07:59PM (#35226664) Homepage

    As a professional astronomer I hoped this thing would never have happened. It costs 6 billion and at this price tag a 5% overrun is $300 million, about six times the cost of the entire SDSS project, which has undoubtedly gave us more science that James Webb ever will.

    Science isn't something you can measure by how many buckets you collect. Not all buckets have the same value.

    True, Hubble and JWST make great pictures, function as amazing PR machines, but most science at the end of the day comes from survey imaging and spectroscopic observations.

    If you honestly believe that all Hubble and JWST are doing or will do is collect pretty pictures, you're either hopelessly ignorant or hopelessly biased. But ff you want to talk spectroscopy - consider that four of the Hubble five main instruments are dedicated to spectroscopy, and two of JWST's three main instruments are so dedicated. If you want to talk surveys... Check out Hubble's schedule from Feb 14, 2011 [], or January 29, 2011 [] for some recent survey campaigns that Hubble is participating in.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."