Science Week 2015 lunchtime talk 4

“The wonders of the Hubble Space Telescope”

Picture1  Professor Michael Burton

  School of Physics, UNSW

Friday 21 August 2015
University of Sydney Business School CBD campus, Level 17, 133 Castlereagh St., Sydney

25 years ago, on 24 April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into Earth orbit. Aside, perhaps, from Galileo’s original telescope of 1609, Hubble has done more than any other telescope to transform our view of the cosmos, certainly from the perspective of the general public. Its contributions to improved understanding of the Universe range from new knowledge of our own Solar System, across our Galaxy and the stars, gas and dust within it, to the galaxies at large and their part in the evolution of the Universe itself. The science case crafted to inspire and then drive the Hubble mission was, of course, cogent. But in fact much of the science that Hubble then performed wasn’t even envisaged when the telescope was launched, testament to the vision that led to the building of a multi-capability observatory rather than one devoted to a single science mission. In particular, the ability to be able to regularly upgrade its instrument suite as the technology for photon detection developed has meant that Hubble has continued to both amaze and do new science a quarter of a century on from its launch.NASA has released a wonderful slide set - 25 years of the Hubble Space Telescope - to mark this notable anniversary, providing a glimpse of many of its science highlights, images that have themselves become iconic over the intervening years. This talk will present this slide set, interspersed with the presenters personal interpretation on their role and significance in the scientific endeavour that is modern astronomy. It will both provide a spectacular picture show of the cosmos, as well as, hopefully, explaining some of the scientific background behind Hubble’s exploration of it.

Michael Burton is an astronomer in the School of Physics at UNSW. His postdoctoral career included a stint with NASA in the late 80’s, in the interregnum between the Challenger disaster of ‘86 and the launch of the Hubble in ‘90. He has been fortunate to have played a small role in some of the ventures undertaken with Hubble, and has had the opportunity to pursue several parallel investigations with ground based telescopes inspired by discoveries made by Hubble, in wavebands that Hubble cannot access; He is also the Editor of the Royal Society's Journal - the second oldest scientific publication in the southern hemisphere.

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