- Gamma ray
- Microwave and
- Radio Telescope.
Gamma Ray Telescopes:
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory:
The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was a space observatory detecting light from 20 KeV to 30 GeV in Earth orbit from 1991 to 2000. Following 14 years of effort, the observatory was launched on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS-37, on 5 April 1991 and operated until its deorbit on 4 June 2000. It was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at that time at 17,000 kilograms (37,000 lb). Costing $617m, the CGRO was part of NASA's Great Observatories series, with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. CGRO was built by TRW (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in Redondo Beach, CA. CRGO was an international collaboration and additional contributions came from the European Space Agency and various Universities, as well as the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope:
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly referred to as the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit. Its main instrument is the Large Area Telescope (LAT), with which astronomers mostly intend to perform an all-sky survey studying astrophysical and cosmological phenomena such as active galactic nuclei, pulsars, other high-energy sources and dark matter. Another instrument aboard Fermi, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM; formerly GLAST Burst Monitor), is being used to study gamma-ray bursts. Fermi was launched on 11 June 2008 at 16:05 GMT aboard a Delta II 7920-H rocket. The mission is a joint venture of NASA, the United States Department of Energy, and government agencies in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.
The International Astrophysical Observatory "GRANAT was a Soviet (later Russian) space observatory developed in collaboration with France, Denmark and Bulgaria. It was launched on 1 December 1989 aboard a Proton rocket and placed in a highly eccentric four-day orbit. Its main instrument, SIGMA, was capable of imaging both hard X-ray and soft gamma-ray sources. The PHEBUS instrument was meant to study gamma-ray bursts and other transient X-Ray sources. Other experiments such as ART-P were intended to image X-Ray sources in the 35 to 100 keV range. One instrument, WATCH, was designed to monitor the sky continuously and alert the other instruments to new or interesting X-Ray sources. The ART-S spectrometer covered the X-ray energy range while the KONUS-B and TOURNESOL experiments covered both the X-ray and gamma ray spectrum.
Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics:
ASCA (formerly named ASTRO-D) is the fourth cosmic X-ray astronomy mission by Japan's (JAXA), and the second for which the United States is providing part of the scientific payload. The satellite was successfully launched on February 20, 1993. The first eight months of the ASCA mission were devoted to performance verification. Having established the quality of performance of all ASCA's instruments, the project changed to a general/guest observer for the remainder of the mission. In this phase the observing program is open to astronomers based at Japanese and US institutions, as well as those who are located in member states of the European Space Agency.
BeppoSAX was an Italian–Dutch satellite for X-ray astronomy which played a crucial role in resolving the origin of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most energetic events known in the universe. BeppoSAX was a major programme of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) with the participation of the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes (NIVR). X-ray observations cannot be performed from ground-based telescopes, since Earth's atmosphere blocks most of the incoming radiation. Launched by an Atlas-Centaur on 30 April 1996 into a low inclination (4 degree) low-Earth orbit. On April 29, 2003, the satellite ended its life falling into the Pacific Ocean.
The Einstein Observatory (HEAO 2):
The Einstein Observatory, HEAO-2, was launched on November 13, 1978, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas-Centaur SLV-3D booster rocket into a near-circular orbit with an initial altitude slightly above 500 km. The Einstein Observatory carried a single large grazing-incidence focusing X-ray telescope that provided unprecedented levels of sensitivity (hundreds of times better than previously achieved) and arc-second angular resolution of point sources and extended objects. It had instruments sensitive in the 0.2 to 3.5 keV energy range. A collection of four focal-plane instruments was installed in the satellite:
HRI, or High Resolution Imaging camera, 0.15-3 keV
IPC, or Imaging Proportional Counter, 0.4 to 4 keV
SSS, or Solid State Spectrometer, 0.5 to 4.5 keV
FPCS, or Bragg Focal Plane Crystal Spectrometer
MPC, Monitor Proportional Counter, 1-20 keV
BBFS, Broad Band Filter Spectrometer
OGS, Objective grating spectrometer
The Einstein Observatory satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up on March 25, 1982.
The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE):
The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) is a space-based telescope operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. FUSE was launched on a Delta II rocket on June 24, 1999, as a part of NASA's Origins program. Its primary mission was to characterize universal deuterium in an effort to learn about the stellar processing times of deuterium left over from the Big Bang. FUSE resides in a low Earth orbit, approximately 760 km (410 nmi) in altitude, with an inclination of 25 degrees and just less than a 100 minute orbital period. Its Explorer designation is Explorer 77. On July 12, 2007, FUSE's final reaction wheel, which is required for accurately pointing a spacecraft, failed and efforts to restart it were unsuccessful. An announcement was made on September 6 that because the fine control needed to perform its mission had been lost, the FUSE mission would be terminated.
The Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) is an orbiting ultraviolet space telescope launched on April 28, 2003. A Pegasus rocket placed the craft into a nearly circular orbit at an altitude of 697 kilometres (433 mi) and an inclination to the Earth's equator of 29 degrees. NASA cut off financial support for operations of GALEX in early February 2011 as it was ranked lower than other projects which were seeking a limited supply of funding. The mission's life-cycle cost to NASA was $150.6 million. In May 2012, GALEX operations were transferred to Caltech. A fund-raising effort called GALEX CAUSE is being run to try and complete its All-Sky UV Survey. Its unique ultraviolet observations shed new light on special studies of galaxies, black-holes, supernova, stars, and beyond.
The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO):
The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) satellites were a series of four American space observatories launched by NASA between 1966 and 1972, which provided the first high-quality observations of many objects in ultraviolet light. Although two OAO missions were failures, the success of the other two increased awareness within the astronomical community of the benefits of space-based observations, and led to the instigation of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble Space Telescope:
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared. The telescope is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble. Space telescopes were proposed as early as 1923. Hubble was funded in the 1970s, with a proposed launch in 1983, but the project was beset by technical delays, budget problems, and the Challenger disaster. When finally launched in 1990, scientists found that the main mirror had been ground incorrectly, compromising the telescope's capabilities. The telescope was restored to its intended quality by a servicing mission in 1993. Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Between 1993 and 2002, four missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope; a fifth mission was canceled on safety grounds following the Columbia disaster. However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009 by Space Shuttle Atlantis. The telescope is now expected to function until at least 2013. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is to be launched in 2018 or possibly later. Click to read more about the Hubble Space Telescope.
Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft, named for the 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on 7 March 2009. The Kepler observatory is "specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover dozens of Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets". Kepler is part of NASA's Discovery Program of relatively low-cost, focused primary science missions. The telescope's construction and initial operation were managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with Ball Aerospace responsible for developing the Kepler flight system. The initial planned lifetime was 3.5 years, but in 2012 this was extended to 2016.
Infrared and Sub-millimeter Telescopes:
Herschel Space Observatory:
The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency space observatory sensitive to the far infrared and sub-millimeter wavebands (55-672 µm). It is the largest infrared space telescope ever launched, carrying a single mirror of 3.5 meters (11.5 ft) in diameter. Herschel is in its final months, as it is running out of coolant. The observatory was carried into orbit in May 2009, reaching the second Lagrangian point (L2) of the Earth-Sun system, 1,500,000 kilometers (930,000 mi) from the Earth, about two months later. The Herschel Observatory is capable of seeing the coldest and dustiest objects in space; for example, cool cocoons where stars form and dusty galaxies just starting to bulk up with new stars. The observatory will sift through star-forming clouds—the "slow cookers" of star ingredients—to trace the path by which potentially life-forming molecules, such as water, form. The United States through NASA is participating in the ESA-built and -operated observatory.
The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS):
The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was the first-ever space-based observatory to perform a survey of the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. Launched on January 25, 1983, its mission lasted ten months. The telescope was a joint project of the United States (NASA), the Netherlands (NIVR), and the United Kingdom (SERC). Over 250,000 infrared sources were observed at 12, 25, 60, and 100 micrometer wavelengths.
James Webb Space Telescope:
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), previously known as Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), is a planned space telescope optimized for observations in the infrared, and a scientific successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The main technical features are a large and very cold 6.5-meter (21 ft) diameter mirror, an observing position far from Earth, orbiting the Earth–Sun L2 point, and four specialized instruments. In planning since 1996, the project represents an international collaboration of about 17 countries led by NASA, and with significant contributions from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The mission was under review for cancellation by the United States Congress in 2011 after about $3 billion had been spent, and more than 75 percent of its hardware was either in production or undergoing testing. In November 2011, Congress reversed plans to cancel the JWST and instead capped additional funding to complete the project at $8 billion.
The Spitzer Space Telescope (SST):
The Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003. It is the fourth and final of the NASA Great Observatories program. The planned mission period was to be 2.5 years with a pre-launch expectation that the mission could extend to five or slightly more years until the onboard liquid helium supply was exhausted. This occurred on 15 May 2009. The US$800 million Spitzer was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, on a Delta II 7920H ELV rocket, Monday, 25 August 2003 at 13:35:39 UTC-5 (EDT). The primary mirror is 85 centimeters (33 in) in diameter, f/12 and made of beryllium and was cooled to 5.5 K (−449.77 °F). The satellite contains three instruments that allowed it to perform astronomical imaging and photometry from 3 to 180 micrometers, spectroscopy from 5 to 40 micrometers, and spectrophotometry from 5 to 100 micrometers.
Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE):
The Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), also referred to as Explorer 66, was a satellite dedicated to cosmology. Its goals were to investigate the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) of the universe and provide measurements that would help shape our understanding of the cosmos. This work provided evidence that supported the Big Bang theory of the universe: that the CMB was a near-perfect black-body spectrum and that it had very faint anisotropies. Two of COBE's principal investigators, George Smoot and John Mather, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for their work on the project.
Planck is a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA) and designed to observe the anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) over the entire sky, at microwave and infra-red frequencies with high sensitivity and small angular resolution. Planck was launched in May 2009, reaching the Earth/Sun L2 point in July, and by February 2010 had successfully started a second all-sky survey. On 21 March 2013, the mission's all-sky map of the cosmic microwave background was released. Planck provides a major source of information relevant to several cosmological and astrophysical issues, such as testing theories of the early universe and the origin of cosmic structure.
Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP):
The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) – also known as the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), and Explorer 80 – is a spacecraft which measures differences in the temperature of the Big Bang's remnant radiant heat – the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation – across the full sky. The WMAP spacecraft was launched on June 30, 2001, at 19:46:46 GDT, from Florida. The WMAP mission succeeds the COBE space mission and was the second medium-class (MIDEX) spacecraft of the Explorer program. In 2003, MAP was renamed WMAP in honor of cosmologist David Todd Wilkinson (1935–2002), who had been a member of the mission's science team. On December 20, 2012, the Nine-year WMAP data and related images were released.
As the atmosphere is transparent for radio waves, radio telescopes in space are of most use for Very Long Baseline Interferometry; doing simultaneous observations of a source with both a satellite and a ground-based telescope and by correlating their signals to simulate a radio telescope the size of the separation between the two telescopes. Observations can be of supernova remnants, masers, gravitational lenses, starburst galaxies, and many other things.
Spektr-R (RadioAstron) is an orbital radio telescope, and was the largest space telescope in orbit after its launch on 18 July 2011. The Spektr-R project is funded by the Astro Space Center of Russia, and was launched into Earth orbit on 18 July 2011, with a perigee of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) and an apogee of 390,000 kilometers (240,000 mi), about 700 times the orbital height of the Hubble Space Telescope. The main scientific goal of the mission is the study of astronomical objects with an angular resolution up to a few millionths of an arc second. Spektr-R is one of the instruments in the RadioAstron program, an international network of observatories led by the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute.
With its Earth-based companions, it will form a network able to provide detailed images of the universe at 1,000 times the resolution attainable using the Hubble Space Telescope. Once in space, the flower-like main dish was to open its 27 'petals' within 30 minutes.
Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy – HALCA:
HALCA (Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy), also known for its project name VSOP (VLBI Space Observatory Programme), or the code name MUSES-B (for the second of the Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft series), is a Japanese 8 meter diameter radio telescope satellite which was used for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). It was the first such space-borne dedicated VLBI mission. It was placed in a highly elliptical orbit with an apogee altitude of 21,400 km and a perigee altitude of 560 km, with an orbital period of approximately 6.3 hours. HALCA was launched in February 1997 from Kagoshima Space Center, and made its final VSOP observations in October 2003, far exceeding its 3 year predicted lifespan, before the loss of attitude control. All operations were officially ended in November 2005.
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