Traveling space telescope to stretch limits of human knowledge
18 Apr, 2011 03:21
An ambitious telescope project called RadioAstron, which will allow observing the universe with an extraordinarily high angular resolution, is going to be launched into the Earth’s orbit in less than a month.
An ambitious telescope project called RadioAstron, which will allow the universe to be observed with an extraordinarily high angular resolution, is going to be launched into the Earth’s orbit in less than a month.It is the unique brainchild of Russian scientists. Experts are already anticipating a true revolution in astrophysics, as the massive space traveling telescope promises to unveil numerous mysteries of deep space.It has been over a decade in the making, but the most ambitious Russian space project for years will soon move from science fiction to science fact.Vladimir Bobyshkin is the father of the project. He says within a matter of months it will be floating hundreds of kilometers from Earth, scanning the far corners of the galaxy.“Many people wonder – there’s us, our planet, the sun, our galaxy – but we can’t be alone out there,” said Bobyshkin. “The talk of parallel worlds and time travel may sound like science fiction… but they say we only know four per cent about the world surrounding us, and we hope to be able to look beyond that.”Spektr-R, also known as RadioAstron, will be the biggest telescope ever launched into space. Together with its largest earth-bound siblings, it will create a network able to provide detailed images of the universe.The resolution will be a thousand times sharper than America’s Hubble telescope."RadioAstron will certainly expand the limits of human knowledge – we might be standing on the threshold of a revolution in astrophysics when things like dark matter and black holes, start to become observable,” added Bobyshkin.At the heart of the complex is a gigantic ten-meter parabolic mirror that can only be seen when the telescope is fully open. It is almost ready to leave its home in Moscow and travel to the launch pad in the Kazakh steppes.In space, the flower-like telescope will open its 27 petals within 30 minutes and will start its exploration of the unknown. Those who have been working on the project – some for more than 20 years – cannot wait to start getting the first results.Anatoly Kovalenko, based at the ground observatory that is part of the project, says he made many sacrifices for RadioAstron. He feels he has devoted a good part of his life to it.“Initially the launch was planned for 1991. The break up of the Soviet Union put an end to those plans and brought financial difficulties and the project was shelved. So 15 out of those almost 30 years were lost in vain,” said Kovalenko.But now that it has been brought up to date, everyone in the industry is holding their breath.“The emotions? Well, thank god we’re back to quality space science and let’s touch wood that it works out!” declared space specialist Igor Lisov.The scientific world wishes the mission good luck – hopeful that all mankind will benefit from a detailed peek into the unknown.