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Surprising Science

IMAX Hubble 3D & the James Webb Space Telescope

IMAX Hubble 3D, hitting the theaters on March 19, features the most famous space telescope of all, the Hubble, launched in April 1990. Soaring above the earth’s atmosphere, it gives the clearest picture of the universe without atmospheric disturbances.

Astronauts were sent to service the telescope on five separate missions, the last in 2009 and the most ambitious. Without these delicate but dangerous space repairs, the Hubble would have been a piece of useless space junk.

This movie chronicles one of these space missions.

Judging by scientific citations in science journals, the Hubble is perhaps the most cited scientific instrument of all time.

Besides giving us spectacular photographs from space, it has given us:

  • Proof of the existence of black holes lurking in the center of galaxies
  • The most complete life-history of stars, from star formation to supernova
  • The most detailed photographs of the planets besides photos from space probes
  • The most detailed photographs of comets, asteroids, and galaxies
  • Evidence for the existence of dark matter, and also proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • Rescuing the Hubble in 2009 was very risky, since astronauts could not safely flee to the International Space Station (ISS) in case of trouble, but it was successful.

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    The repairs should last until 2014, when the telescope will be decommissioned. It will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

    According to NASA – The new telescope has a 6.6-meter diameter primary mirror and has a 25-square-meter collecting area formed from eighteen hexagonal segments. Comparable to the Hubble Telescope, the JWST collecting area is about 6 times larger giving it much more light-gathering power. It will primarily operate in the infrared but will have some capability in the visible range as well. The JWST will also operate much further away than the Hubble Telescope. To give you an idea, Hubble currently orbits the Earth at about 570 kilometers. The JWST will be operating at approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth at the second Lagrange (L2) point and will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket.

    It will be interesting to see the stunning imagery from the Webb Telescope once it’s in operation but we will of course have to wait until mid-decade or so.

    Don’t forget to go see IMAX Hubble 3D hitting the theaters on March 19!


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