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YOU can look through the Hubble Space Telescope


Getting a chance to look through a large telescope is always good, and if you know someone who has a large telescope, you can ask them a favour and sometimes get a chance to look through it.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a very large telescope, but the view is even better than with some of the large ground-based telescopes, because the Hubble Telescope is in Space. So, is doesn't have to look through the Earth's atmosphere which (even on a clear night) is a bit distorting at the highest resolution of the best telescopes.

The idea that you might be able to look through the Hubble Space Telescope yourself seems at first a bit fanciful. You might think you'd have to win a major competition, and then go for a flight on the Space Shuttle, and then when you arrived at the telescope you'd go floating off in a spacesuit and get to the eyepiece of the Hubble Space Telescope and even then your space helmet visor would get in the way!

Fortunately you don't need to go to all that toil and trouble to get a look through the Hubble Space Telescope. Ask yourself who is looking through the telescope at present? Not astronauts, but astronomers. They are looking, from the ground. It's like a digital camera, with the images being conveyed by computer. Therefore, the images from the Hubble Space Telescope that you see on your computer screen are as good as the ones being seen by scientists in the top research labs. So, it is true: YOU can look through the Hubble Space Telescope.

The official site is: www.hubblesite.org

Those generous people at NASA and ESA have made most of the images copyright-free (provided you give them a mention). So, you're allowed to snaffle some of the world's best astronomy pictures and hang them on your walls.

Other points:

* Why is there a lid on the Hubble Space Telescope? Well, you've got eyelids, haven't you. They close automatically if you happen to glance accidentally at the sun. (In space, you can see stars in the daytime as well as at night).

* Are the Hubble Space Telescope images fake? Unlikely, as they are strikingly similar to pictures through some of the best telescopes on the ground, only better. Plus, scientists are discovering new stuff using the images, and it wouldn't make consistent sense if someone had faked them. Also, in terms of cost, bearing in mind that an animated movie costs about the same as a live action movie, it is cheaper to have a real telescope up there, even if you include the costs associated with sending astronauts up there with toolkits to make repairs.

Other Hubble Space Telescope websites:

http://hubble.nasa.gov/ - Hubble Space Telescope project

www.stsci.edu/resources/ - STCI - Space Telescope Science Institute

http://seds.org/hst/hst.html (gone) - Hubble Space Telescope Greatest Hits

www.spacetelescope.org - European Homepage

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/ - latest news

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_Space_Telescope - Wikipedia

http://hubble.esa.int/ - The Hubble Space Telescope is a joint ESA/NASA project

www.stecf.org - Scientific and Technical research in Europe

http://science.nasa.gov/temp/hubbleloc.html - in case you want to know exactly where the Hubble Space Telescope is around its near-equatorial orbit. (You can see it fly over, on a clear night. For more info, see Heavens Above (remember to put your location in))

Further point: Don't let all this put you off buying your own telescope! A telescope (nomatter how big) can only point in one direction at once, and if you buy a reasonably affordable telescope yourself, you'll be able to point yours where you want. There is a lot more sky than can be looked at by all the big telescopes, and you may be interested to know that most new supernova discoveries are found by amateur astronomers with back-garden telescopes.