The Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 8, 1998
June 8, 1998
VOL. 27, NO. 37


Next Generation Telescope To Be Managed From Homewood Campus

Emil Venere
News and Information
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Hubble Space Telescope will be replaced within the next decade, but its nerve center at the Space Telescope Science Institute on the Homewood campus will remain central to astronomy, taking over scientific management and operations for the next-generation space telescope.

That's the message to be delivered during a news conference at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 8, at the institute.

The event is expected to draw several major figures, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., NASA administrator Daniel Goldin and Johns Hopkins president William R. Brody.

The next-generation space telescope is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2007. One of its major goals will be to observe the first stars and galaxies in the cosmos and to further understand how the universe formed.

The telescope has not yet been designed, but plans call for a mirror roughly three times the size of Hubble's 2.4-meter mirror. Putting such a large mirror in space, above the light-distorting atmosphere, would lead to a plethora of discoveries. Such an instrument might even enable astronomers to find new evidence for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars.

Because it would be difficult to haul such a large mirror into orbit, scientists may have to use an ambitious new approach: design a mirror that is collapsed when launched and then assembles itself robotically in space. Learning how to accomplish that technological feat would pave the way for an even more powerful space telescope truly capable of detecting Earth-like planets orbiting other suns.

The institute was established at Hopkins in 1981 and is operated under NASA contract by a private corporation made up of 25 American universities, including JHU, called the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. Initially the institute was located in what is now Krieger Hall, then known as Rowland Hall, which was home to the Department of Physics. It moved into its present facility on San Martin Drive in 1983.

"The scientific and technical staff of the institute benefit from their immediate proximity to a university that is vitally involved in astronomy and space research, while faculty and students at JHU similarly benefit from their close interactions with the staff and visitors to the STScI," said Arthur Davidsen, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Over the years a number of scientists at the institute have held joint appointments at Hopkins, and both undergraduate and graduate students have done research at the institute, he said.

"Johns Hopkins faculty members, students and staff have contributed significantly to the design of several instruments used on Hubble, both past and future, and have participated vigorously in making observations and discoveries with the telescope," Davidsen said.