Hubble vs. Webb

Forbes has a nice article about the Hubble Space Telescope and its proposed replacement, the James E. Webb Space Telescope, as Slashdot reports:

Roland Piquepaille writes “According to Forbes, reporting in ”Peering Back At The Universe’s Past,“ space telescopes are really acting as time machines. They can watch objects which are so far from us that light has taken billions of years before reaching their mirrors. The Hubble telescope is able to look at events that took place 13.3 billion light-years ago. But the James E. Webb space telescope, currently under construction, and scheduled to be launched in 2011, will be able to see even further and catch phenomena which happened 13.5 billion light-years ago. The astronomers think the Webb telescope might even be able to see up to 13.7 billion light-years ago, when our universe was just 200 or 300 million years old.

The Robert Piquepaille link contains a table comparing the two telescopes side by side, and the Forbes article does a good job explaining some of the technology behind the Webb telescope.

I posted a couple of months ago that NASA decided not to send a repair mission to Hubble in 2006 that would extend its life, and I still think that is a bad decision. However, in the wake of widespread criticism it sounds as if NASA is developing contingency plans to remotely repair the Hubble rather than sending a manned mission. I wonder whether coming up with an entirely new means of robotic repair will be riskier than sending a manned mission using proven methods, but at least NASA has reopened the door to keeping the Hubble in orbit…

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