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Successor To Hubble Space Telescope Aims To Find Alien Life

With the venerable and venerated Hubble Space Telescope reaching the 25th anniversary of its launch into orbit this year,it’s successor is being prepped for action by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Hubble Space Telescope-up-close-by-NASA/Flickr

Hubble Space Telescope-up-close-by-NASA/Flickr

While it will succeed the Hubble once it’s finished being built in Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the James Webb Space Telescope is unlikely to eclipse its predecessor in cultural significance. The Webb, which is a joint project between US, European and Canadian space agencies, will of course be more powerful than the Hubble ever dreamed and will be able to see even further into the universe, but nothing can erase the ground-breaking and scientific studies that the Hubble has played a part in across its quarter of a century in service.

“Hubble has taught us that to answer the most interesting questions in astrophysics, we must plan for an impressive future and put scientific ambition ahead of budgetary concerns. In my perspective, the next priority should be the search for life beyond our solar system. A powerful space telescope that can spot biological signatures in the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets would be a commendable successor.”

Livio’s team operates the Hubble telescope’s science program, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Essentially, he suggests that the next telescope should be able to go one step further than just discovering worlds, by identifying potential lifeforms.

According to him, the specs for a telescope that can do this are pretty advanced, compared to what the Hubble telescope is equipped with. The new one would need a primary mirror at least 39 feet (12 meters) wide, with vision 25 times sharper than that of Hubble. Like me, you probably have no idea what the current Hubble has so I’ll list the specs for you. The main mirrors of Hubble are 7.9 feet (2.4 meters), 7.9 feet and 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) wide, respectively.

The Webb, which is being developed and constructed at a cost of $8.8 billion, is scheduled for an October 2018 launch. The telescope will be stationed far beyond the Hubble’s low-Earth orbit; in fact it’s designed to sit far out from planet, past the moon, at a massive 932,000 miles from the surface. Webb is designed to have a deployable solar shield in order to block out light pollution from the sun, the moon and the Earth – this will enable the telescope to see even the faintest light coming from interstellar objects.

Successor To Hubble Space Telescope Aims To Find Alien Life.

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