Space Technologies and Telescopes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

Space telescopes are instrument located outside the earth in outer space, in order to observe planets, galaxies, stars and other objects. 

They work by using curved clear glasses or lenses for focussing on the light. The shape of the lens in a mirror or lens in a telescope work by concentrating light. That light is what we see when we work with a telescope. The space telescope has special lenses to filter out x-rays, Gamma rays and ultraviolet rays etc. based on the requirement. They also work by filtering pollution which other normal telescopes fail to avoid.

Various Space Telescopes: Hubble; Chandra X-ray; Spitzer; Kepler space telescope

History of Space telescopes:

  • It was first suggested by Lyman Spitzer in 1946, the first operational space telescope was of American origin. It was named as Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) and launched in 1966. OAO carried instruments to detect ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma rays.
  • OAO-1 was part of a series of 4 telescopes launched by the U.S.A. namely OAO-2, OAO-3, OAO-B.
  • Also, the Soviet Union tested its first space telescope Orion 1 ultraviolet telescope in 1971.

Difference between space telescopes and satellites:

Satellite point toward the earth and collect data regarding weather, traffic, geographical locations and for other military and civilian purposes. On the other hand, the purpose of space telescopes or observatory is mainly to focus and research on extraterrestrial objects like galaxies, new planets, or other objects.

Advantages of Space telescopes:

  • They do away with lacunae associated with ground-based telescopes such as the distortionary effect of pollution and other obstacles.
  • They reduce the atmospheric effects with the help of adaptive optics.
  • As they orbit outside the Earth, they are able to avoid problems like the twinkling of light and light pollution caused by objects from the earth.
  • They are crucial for frequency ranges which are outside the optical and the radio window. As these two are the only wavelength ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum which are not reduced by the atmosphere.

Disadvantages of space telescope:

  • They are more expensive to be built as compared to the ground-based telescope.
  • These telescopes are difficult to maintain, due to their location outside earth. In order to maintain, repair and overhaul them, extreme level of technical expertise is required.
  • They have a short life as compared to terrestrial telescope due to shortened battery life and lack of maintenance.
  • They also suffer from a lack of research in the field of science related to space telescope studies.

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Famous space telescope and their details are as below:

Hubble space telescope: It has been launched by NASA. It’s the first major telescope to be placed in space in 1990. Since launch Hubble has revolutionised the understanding and study of space by scientist as well as people world over. It had helped in determining the age of the universe, studying changes in celestial bodies in our solar system. Hubble had shed light on the scale of the Universe, the life of the stars, black holes and the formation of the first galaxies. It’ll be going to be replaced by James Webb space telescope.

Chandra X-ray Observatory: It’s the world’s most powerful x-ray telescope, launched by NASA. It’s named after Indian – American physicist Subramanian Chandrasekhar. It examines the x-rays emitted by the unknown objects from the universe, including quasars (is an extremely luminous active galactic nucleus in which a massive black hole having millions of times of mass of the sun is surrounded by a gaseous accretion disk, immense clouds of gas and dust particles sucked into black holes.

Spitzer space telescope: it was launched by the NASA in 2003. It gathers information regarding infrared radiation emerging galaxies, black holes and even comets in our solar system as it’s tough to observe infrared radiation from the ground because of the earth’s characteristics to absorb infrared radiation. It was the first telescope which was able to see the light from an exoplanet. It took the temperature of “hot Jupiter’s” and found that not all of them are hot.

Herschel Space Observatory: Launched by both NASA and ESA in 2009. It was the most powerful infrared telescope, looking at the far-infrared object of light generated by some of the coldest objects in the space. It was designed to search for water, both in nearby comets and dust clouds and will also peer into the womb of star formation.

Planck Observatory: It was launched by ESA in 2009. It was launched together with Herschel. It was programmed to concentrate on the microwave light of the universe. It will be looking at the parts of the first light to shine freely in the universe, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB).

Kepler space telescope: It’s NASA’s planet-hunting telescope. It’s designed to search for other earth-like planets in the galaxy.

Fermi space telescope: it’s helped in studying gamma-ray burst in the outer space. This will help in understanding the creation of the universe and the mystery of black holes.

GALEX: GALEX or Galaxy Evolution Explorer has helped in better understanding the evolution and formation of galaxies. It studied the shape, size, brightness and other characteristics of galaxies.

UVIT or Ultra Violet imaging telescope is a part of ASTROSAT, which is the first space-based observatory launched by India. It will help in understanding high- energy processes in a binary system, search for black holes, measure the magnetic field of neutron stars, study high energy processes in the galaxy, detect new transient X-ray sources etc.

Thus in the world of space telescopes so far, significant achievements have been made in the field of astronomy. They have helped in understanding the origin of life, space and extraterrestrial phenomenon to a new level. With future arrival of telescopes like James Webb Telescope and Euclid Telescope, new avenues of space will become available to be researched and cherished by everyone.

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