My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: ATLAST, James Webb Telescope and E-ELT - Bigger Space and Ground-based Telescopes for the Planet Hunters

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ATLAST, James Webb Telescope and E-ELT - Bigger Space and Ground-based Telescopes for the Planet Hunters

“The time is right for scientific and space agencies around the world, including those in the UK, to take a bold step forward and to commit to this project,”

Lecturer at the University of Leicester and President of the Royal Astronomical Society Dr. Martin Barstow speaking of an upcoming presentation on Tuesday June 24th 2014 in Portsmouth, England on ATLAST (Advanced Technologies Large Aperture Space Telescope)

The quest for Life on other Planets has take a hiatus ever since the Kepler Space Telescope Guidance System lost focus on the Constellation Cygnus back in August 2013 as stated in “The Kepler Space Telescope May Be Dead, But Its Planet-Hunting Mission Continues”, published Aug. 16, 2013 By Michael Lemonick, Time Magazine and “Planet-Hunting Days of NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Likely Over”, published August 15, 2013 03:04pm ET by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer, Space.

But after making a discovery like exoplanet Kepler-186f  as declared in my blog article entitled “NASA discovers Earth-like exoplanet Kepler-186f in the Constellation Cygnus - 500 light years is awfully far distance to buy beachfront property”, the appetite of the many planet-hunting and SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life) Scientists has been whetted for more.

ATLAST, James Webb Telescope and E-ELT - Bigger Telescopes for the Planet Hunters

To that end, proposals are being floated to build larger Earth-based Optical Telescopes and Space based ones as well, with more instruments such as IR, Gamma Ray and X-Ray Detectors and better resolving power.

Hopefully they'll be so powerful as to be able to see and image planets directly as was the case with University of Montreal being able to image the exoplanet GU Psc b using Infrared as explained in my blog article entitled “University of Montreal directly images exoplanet GU Psc b using Infrared - 100 Light Year Barrier no longer an issue as Infrared Tun Up”.

To that end, there’s been a flurry of announcements in the past two (2) weeks relating to Telescopes, both space-based and ground-based.

In the category of the Space Based Telescopes, there’s been the 20 meter ATLAST (Advanced Technologies Large Aperture Space Telescope), which is being championed by Lecturer at the University of Leicester and President of the Royal Astronomical Society Dr. Martin Barstow as stated in “A New Call To Build A Massive Alien-Seeking Space Telescope”, published 6/22/2014 @ 4:38PM, by Eric Mack, Forbes Magazine.
Despite their ambitions agenda of the Royal Astronomical Society as it relates the planet hunting capabilities of ATLAST, which is 10 times bigger than the Hubble Telescope as laid out by the Royal Astronomical Society, it’s a bit too soon.

There is no money in NASA’s (National Aeronautical Space Administration) budget, at least not until 2030 and priority is being placed on the James Webb Space Telescope as detailed in ATLAST to be Successor of James Webb Space Telescope”, published June 23 - 12:50 2014 by Juan Pablo Saavedra, Headlines Science which is slated to go up by 2018.
As it relates to Ground-based Telescopes, work has begun dynamiting work to prepare the Cerro Armazones in Chile’s Atacama Desert for the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope), slated to be the largest optical/near-Infrared telescope in the world as explained in “MOUNTAIN TOP IN CHILE EXPLODED TO MAKE WAY FOR WORLD’S LARGEST OPTICAL TELESCOPE”, published  June 21, 2014 By Loren Grush, DigitalTrends.

The dimensions of the E-ELT Telescope are quite impressive:

1.      39m (128') wide Primary Mirror
2.      798 Hexagonal Segments comprise the Primary Mirror
3.      Each Hexagonal Segment is 1.37m (4.5') wide and 5.08cm (2')
4.      15 Times the light Gathering capabilities of the current largest Optical Telescope
5.      Comes with Infrared Detectors, very critical to imaging planets in Infrared

That last bit clearly marks out the E-ELT as a planet hunter, as exoplanets glow in Infrared differently whether or not they are close to the star they orbit. This helps to determine not only surface temperature but also composition of their atmosphere and whether or not it's solid or a Gas Giant.
The location in the Cerro Armazones in Chile’s Atacama Desert was chosen as its high and dry and has very low EMI (Electromagnetic Interference), perfect for peering deep into space and spotting planets. Alas, the E-ELT won’t be online until 2024. So as with the Space-based Telescopes, it’ll be another 10 to 20 years before any of these projects start finding anything as remotely significant as the discoveries made by the Kepler Space Telescope.

My Telescope Idea - COITUS (Cloud Optical/Infrared Telescope University Telescope)

Personally, on reading all of this, I've got my own crazy idea for a Telescope. It would involve launching a large flat platform supported by a pair of blimps that would be powered using Alternative Energy. This may be a combination of Solar, Wind with support from Flex-fuel Generators using conventional Fuel or even Hydrogen derived from moisture in the clouds. I dub my idea the COITUS (Cloud Optical/Infrared Telescope University Telescope).

The Blimp would be designed to stay aloft permanently at high altitude on the night-time side of the Earth so as avoid the direct glare of the Sun. It wouldn't be piloted by humans. Rather it would be completely controlled and flown instead by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) System that would have Robotic Machines on board to assist with maintenance of the Blimp. Where the onboard Optical and Infrared image in the sky would be controlled by a collaborative team of Astronomy Students based at Universities around the World.

Yes folks, this is a University Floating Telescope. After all, I reason, it would be an awful waste of human resource if those already studying Astronomy in these many Universities and Technical Institutes didn’t have their own Telescope to discover planets as well, as all the above are either NASA or ESA (European Space Agency) funded Telescopes. This would be funded, run and owned cooperatively by Universities all around the world.

In this way, it would have the best of both worlds; it would still be Earth-based but not quite in outer space. Its main advantage is that it would be able to constantly image the sky at high altitude, free of terrestrial Radio EMI as well as Infrared Radiation from objects on the ground. The cooler temperature would make most of the equiptment work more efficiently, producing better Infrared Images. But best of all, at that height, Optical Images taken by its various telescopes would be crystal clear, as there would be less atmospheric haze for this floating observatory to peer through.

Thanks to its solar powered design, it would never have to land and would basically be like an Oil Platform or a Helicarrier, straight out of Avengers floating up in the upper atmosphere and constantly imaging multiple potions of the sky that astronomers chose to image, as it carries multiple telescopes of various sizes and functionality. They can be manned individually or made to function a lot like a compound eye, pooling their collective resolving power on a single patch of sky for observation by University Astronomy students.

Best of all, it would be piloted and flown by an onboard AI (Artificial Intelligence), with a mere skeleton staff that being on board only to makes sure the ship AI performs as it should and to perform maintenance that the ship's Robotic Maintenance Crew may be unable to do on their own.

Because most of the technology already exists to build this floating observatory, I envision from Design, Funding and Construction, COITUS can begin operation in 2020, the latest.

COITUS is what I have in mind. What do you think?
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