For more than 30 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has been peering into the cosmos and sending back dazzling pictures of stars, supernovas and black holes.
“The world’s most brilliant astronomers do miracles with this observatory,” said David Leckrone, the former Hubble Senior Project Scientist. “My jaw keeps dropping lower and lower with each new discovery.”
But it’s now nearing the end of its life.
The telescope’s orbit is slowly decaying and without help, it could burn up in the atmosphere.
“At the same gyroscopes are failing, the electronics are wearing out. It’s time to build a new telescope,” said Tyrone Woods, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba.
For 12 years, Woods, along with roughly 100 other scientists and engineers across Canada have been working on building a new telescope. It’s called CASTOR – which stands for cosmological advanced survey telescope for optical and UV research.
“We’re building a Canadian-led, one-metre flagship space telescope. A successor to the Hubble that’s going to revolutionize everything from our understanding of the outer solar system to the universe itself.”
The telescope would target ultraviolet wavelengths, giving astronomers a view they can’t get from the ground.
“There are lots of really cool things that give off ultraviolet light. So really hot massive stars, cosmic explosions, growing black holes,” said Sarah Gallagher, the president of the Canadian Astronomical Society.
Building this telescope is possible because Canada has become a world leader in ultraviolet instrumentation.
“We have the scientific and the industrial capability to lead our mission and people want to join our team because this project is exciting.”
However, taking the lead will also take millions in funding. The team is looking to the federal government for roughly $304 million. International partners will kick in the remainder of the total mission cost of $480 million.
“That’s a fraction of what Hubble cost,” said Woods.
Funding for the project will be discussed once parliament resumes next week. Should funding be approved, the plan is to build the telescope in Winnipeg and have it ready to launch by 2030.
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