News

USU Developing Space Telescopes

By Ed Yeates
KSL News
November 23, 2004

NASA researchers are asking Utah scientists to help them find strange things in space – things they've never seen before. In a far-out exploration project, the space agency is giving Utah State University's Space Dynamics Lab 40-million dollars to develop a new remarkable telescope.

Harry Ames, SDL Deputy Director, and a mock-up of the WISE telescope

Harry Ames, SDL Deputy Director, and a mock-up of the WISE telescope

New stars, new galaxies, even new asteroids, which may be on a collision course towards Earth. That's what this scaled down model of a new infrared telescope called WISE will seek out and find. From a 200 million dollar project, 40-million will go to USU's Space Dynamics Lab to build the probe's critical eye.

Harry Ames, S.D.L. Deputy Director: "Imagine yourself inside a basketball with a camera in a basketball. We're going to imagine the entire interior surface of that basketball - meaning everything you can see anywhere on earth at any time."

So, the telescope in a low orbit will point out into the cosmos, everything we faintly see plus some things hidden we need to know for our own survival.

The infrared probe will map stars closer to us than we think. It will pick up light which left objects far out in space billions of years ago, and a mysterious galactic mass called "dark" energy. The scope will be 500,000 times more sensitive with more resolution than even a probe from a previous mission.

A comparison — From down here, looking at the mountains, I can see snow, the outline of pine trees, some fall colors. But with USU’s new optics, I see the tiniest rocks and tell you what trees are there and how many branches they have on each tree. We can tell you if there is a squirrel running up the branch.

The spacecraft will launch in 2008.

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