Monday, January 14, 2013

One Hubble looks up; two look down.

I am pretty sure that very few people remember...or even believed my statement that at least one of the Hubble space telescopes was 'missing' and probably two of them and that they were in earth orbit pointing DOWN.  That was a few years ago and I was counting the mirrors that were ground for the Hubble and there seemed to be WAY too many.  Further, I had some silly idea that the reason the first pictures were out of focus and they had to send a repair crew could easily have been that it was all so secret that no one knew the difference and launched one of the NRO Hubbles instead of the dedicated NASA one.

Whatever the case, the NRO gave NASA two more Hubbles in July 2012 - minus electronics.  The mirror field of view was 100 times wider and the optics are an order of magnitude greater, but they were never launched. So anyone with three minutes can pretty easily figure out that a telescope which can see almost to the edge of the our universe at startling detail could pretty easily image the pores of your skin or your fingerprint, or things that we can't see now without a very expensive microscope. Heat and other disturbances in the atmosphere would blur the picture of course...unless there were two telescopes operating in tandem.  And if we have had something MUCH better than the Hubble for ten or fifteen years but didn't need it, one wonders what is flying now.

What we don't want now are a bunch of Chinese 'weather' satellites flying up to the X-37 and looking in the cargo bay.  Because one of the things in there is two....or three....generations past the NRO Hubbles.  In 2003, SR-71s were flying 2.3 GIGApixel cameras and NASA says the Webb telescope will be 100 times as powerful as the Hubble...just like the two NRO satellites they got as presents last summer - so that isn't true.  Those platforms are already obsolete. 

I'd guess what is flying now is in the TERApixel range.  That means nothing in and of itself, because the optics are what count.  But it makes no sense to orbit a camera like that if you can't get good pictures.

No comments:

Post a Comment