Today, we are witnessing the beginning of fundamental changes in the development of instrumental astronomy. Even forty years ago, people realized that, sooner or later, all our major telescopes will go into space. With time most of our best telescopes will be located on various orbits around Earth or even our Sun. This process started in the 20th century, and we already have powerful telescopes in space. For example, the famous Hubble Space Telescope. However, in the next few decades, we can expect that the number of space telescopes will rise significantly.
Why do we even think about moving all our telescopes into space? Nowadays, when people desire not only to find nice women for relationships but also to expand our knowledge and widen scientific horizons. Unfortunately, our planet limits our ability to see things in space. Due to this fact, we are literary forced to launch our best telescopes into space. Otherwise, we will never be able to receive useful data. Here are the main reasons why Earth is not perfect for telescopes.
No matter where you want to build a telescope, you will face various problems caused by Earth’s atmosphere. This one is the simplest problem. However, it is not possible to completely fix this problem. Strong winds not only will vibrate your telescope, but also may even significantly damage it.
2. Optical aberrations
Our atmosphere is a very complex system, and it affects everything on our planet. As you already know, it consists of various layers. These layers are constantly moving, heating up, and colling down. As a consequence, our astronomers and even the best telescopes suffer from various optical aberrations. Not to mention that simple temperature difference of different parts o a telescope may affect the data it gathers.
3. Space debris
When talking about problems that astronomers have, we can’t avoid talking about problems caused by humankind. You see, on various orbits around Earth, we have many active satellites, and tons of space debris. The number of space debris rises exponentially. Even today, we have serious complications when we try to use telescopes located on Earth. In 15 years, it may not be physically possible to use them at all.
Why do we “pollute” space?
Even when we are talking about launching telescopes in space, we are talking about contributing to the “pollution” of space. So, is there something we can do about it? Well, first of all, it is crucial to understand that any forms of restrictions are not an option. Too many important industries operate only because of numerous artificial satellites orbiting our planet. The benefits of “space pollution” in everyday life are already affecting the lion’s share of humanity. Consequently, we must consider other options for fixing this problem.
The reaction of society
Another interesting aspect is that space pollution doesn’t affect our society at all. Surely, space companies, astronomers, and scientists see this problem and regularly face additional challenges due to it. But we will have way more problems if some company decides to randomly deorbit things from space right on our heads. On the other hand, building telescopes on the surface of Earth face more problems and protests. This is because, to build a telescope on the surface, you will have to find a nice spot. Most frequently, those spots are already taking by people. For example, you can read about problems with a famous Thirty Meter Telescope.
So, what should we do?
Despite the widespread belief that space exploration is the enemy of astronomy. The development of space technologies opens up opportunities for astronomy that Herschel and Newton could even imagine. The humankind must have astronomical tools in space. Because this is the only way for us to advance and develop. Here is a list of small benefits of having telescopes in space.
1. Bigger mirrors
Today, all our optical telescopes in their constructions have big mirrors. Those mirrors usually are non-monolithic and consist of small mirrors that are assembled in one big structure. The bigger the mirror, the more and better the data you will have. On the surface, the size of the mirrors is limited by gravitation. As you have guessed, in space, we don’t have such problems. Thus, we can have a more powerful telescopes. Not to mention completely resolving problems with optical aberrations caused by the atmosphere.
2. Modern means of delivery
New rockets are much eco-friendlier and don’t produce space debris. Also, with the development of modern means of space transportation, we can launch bigger objects for lower prices into space. Space launches are becoming cheaper. This means that for the same price, today, engineers can focus on better technologies for telescopes.
3. In-space assembly
Nowadays, we already have many startups that are involved in space involved in space-related construction and engineering. For example, Archinaut One and Axiom Space. Surely, many of those startups will fail. However, there will be those who will manage to succeed. No matter what, sooner or later, humanity always gets what it wants, especially if the final goal is beneficial. After all, the final assembly and deployment of oversized mirrors in space will allow scientists to bypass the overall dimensions and cargo restrictions of rockets.
Which option works out cheaper
At first sight, the answer seems to be pretty obvious. Surely, telescopes on the Earth’s surface are way cheaper than those in space, right? Well, the answer is not so obvious. Since both surface and space telescopes consist of approximately the same elements, the associated infrastructure and telescope trim will make a decisive contribution to the overall cost. Surely, you will have to pay additional money to launch a telescope into space. Plus, we can’t accept any mistakes when building it, because no one can fix a telescope in space. From this perspective, the STS-125 or HST-SM4 mission was an exception. On the other hand, you don’t need to have facilities to maintain telescopes and can use it without any problems caused by the atmosphere of large cities. Today, space telescopes are more expensive, but the more things we launch into space, the cheaper each launch becomes. We expect that in twenty years, space telescopes will become much cheaper.