History of Space Telescopes

The history of space telescopes dates back to the early 20th century when scientists began to propose the use of telescopes, orbiting in space, to observe the universe. Throughout history, telescopes have led to significant advancements in our understanding of the universe.

Who Designed the First Space Telescope?

Astronomer Lyman Spitzer, considered the father of the Hubble Space Telescope, first proposed the idea of a space telescope in 1946. He wrote about the “Astronomical Advantages of an Extra-Terrestrial Observatory” in a report for the RAND Corporation. One major advantage of space telescopes is that they are above the atmosphere. This allows astronomers to make observations without the distortion of light, caused by the atmosphere.

When was the First Space Telescope Launched?

The first space telescope was the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO-1), launched by NASA on April 8, 1966. OAO-1’s power supply failed shortly after launch, and it was terminated just three days later. OAO-2 was launched into orbit on December 7th, 1968, where it remained in operation until 1973. The third observatory, OAO-B, was launched on November 30th, 1970, but never made it into orbit. On August 21st, 1972, OAO-3 (Copernicus) was launched to study ultraviolet emissions.

How Did the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory Impact History?

The OAO telescopes were an important milestone in the history of space telescopes, as it was the first telescope to be placed in orbit around the Earth. The OAO was the first in a series of four space telescopes, designed to study celestial objects in the ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These telescopes, called NASA’s Great Observatories, were designed to cover a broad range of wavelengths, including visible rays, gamma rays, X-rays, and infrared. The OAO was the first to study ultraviolet and X-ray parts of the spectrum, which are difficult to observe from the ground due to the absorption from earth’s atmosphere. This mission also led to many important discoveries, including the detection of the first quasar and the first X-ray pulsar.

How Have Space Telescopes Changed Throughout History?

Space telescopes have undergone significant changes throughout their history. The improvement in technology and our understanding of the universe has led to the development of more sophisticated telescopes. Throughout history, new space telescopes have given us a deeper look into the universe, each in their own way:

October 4th, 1957 – The USSR launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in space.

December 7th, 1968 – NASA launched the first successful space telescope, called the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) to study the universe using ultraviolet light. 

August 21st, 1972 – NASA launched the final OAO telescope, OAO-3, to study ultraviolet emissions.

January 26th, 1978 – NASA launched The International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) to study ultraviolet radiation emitted by celestial objects.

April 24th, 1990 – NASA and the ESA launched the Hubble Space Telescope to study the universe.

July 23rd, 1999 – NASA launched the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study high-energy phenomena such as black holes and supernovae

August 23rd, 2003 – NASA launched the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2003 to study the infrared radiation emitted by celestial objects.

March 7th, 2009 – NASA launched the Kepler telescope to find Earth-like planets around the Milky Way.

December 14th, 2013 – NASA launched the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to study the infrared radiation emitted by distant celestial objects.

April 18th, 2018 – NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to search for exoplanets by observing the transits of these planets across the faces of their stars.

December 25th, 2021 – NASA, in partnership with the ESA and the CSA, launched the James Webb Telescope to continue the Hubble Space Telescope’s mission in greater detail.

The History of the Hubble Space Telescope

NASA and the ESA began the development of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in 1977. On April 4th of 1990, Hubble was launched into orbit, where it is still in operation today. The Hubble Space Telescope has made numerous discoveries and has allowed astronomers to study the universe in greater detail.

How Did the Hubble Space Telescope Impact History?

The Hubble Space Telescope has had a significant impact on our understanding of the universe and our place within it. Some of the most influential discoveries include:

  • Calculations of the expansion rate of the universe
  • Understanding of dark energy and galactic evolution
  • Observations and analysis of exoplanets

The History of the Spitzer Space Telescope

The Spitzer Space Telescope, also known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), is a space telescope that was launched into orbit on August 25, 2003. It was the fourth of NASA’s Great Observatories, and was named after astronomer Lyman Spitzer Jr., who proposed the concept of space telescopes in the 1940s. 

How Did the Spitzer Space Telescope Impact History?

The Spitzer Space Telescope was the third, and largest, infrared telescope to be launched into space. Infrared telescopes detect electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths that are longer than those of visible light. This allowed NASA to study the evolution of galaxies and the composition of celestial bodies. After 16 years, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s mission came to an end on January 30th, 2020.

The History of the James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was developed by NASA, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It was named after James E. Webb, who served as a NASA administrator who played a key role in the Apollo program. The concept for the James Webb Space Telescope was first proposed in 1996 as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST). The JWST was launched on December 25th, 2021.

How Did the James Webb Telescope Impact History?

The JWST was designed to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, with a focus on studying the early universe, analyzing forming galaxies, and searching for habitable planets. It was equipped with mid-infrared camera and a near-infrared camera and spectrograph to carry on the HST’s mission, roughly 1 million miles from earth.