Communion Of Dreams


“Uh, he’s already got one, you see.”

Happy 25th Anniversary to the Hubble Space Telescope, which has rightly been called one of the most important scientific tools in human history. It has brought the cosmos closer to us, just as it has helped to drive home an understanding of precisely how far away those twinkling lights in the sky actually are … and connected to that, just how old our universe is:

The depth of Hubble’s data, however, has touched or rewritten nearly every area of astrophysics. Ever since the discovery of the expanding universe in the 1920s, astronomers had struggled with the rate of expansion and what it means. The so-called Hubble constant, the universal rate of expansion, was much in doubt, with two factions arguing very different conclusions from the data. The Hubble constant is also inversely proportional to the age of the universe, another key holy grail of science. One of the primary goals of Hubble was to measure the Hubble constant accurately, using a variety of distance indicators, and by the turn of the 21st century, this helped define a relatively accurate Hubble constant of 72±8 and an age of the universe, which the more recent European Planck satellite has refined further to 13.8±0.04 billion years.

 

It’s an amazing piece of technology.

But I can’t help remembering that even as amazing as it is, a few years ago it was revealed that it was considered so … obsolete … that US spy agencies had just given NASA two other surplus Hubble-type instruments they no longer wanted to bother to store. As I noted at the time:

…we’ve just found out that what we thought was at the limits of our technology is so obsolete that it can be handed off as so much surplus junk. And the implication is that while NASA is currently without the means to launch and service something like Hubble, that there are plenty other agencies within our government which are not so inconvenienced.

 

Which brings me around to the title of this blog post. Monty Python fans may recognize it from this scene in the Holy Grail:

Which I just happened to watch this week, and snickered over, remembering the news item about the HST from 2012. Though of course, in this case I hope that the National Reconnaissance Office wasn’t *quite* so taunting of NASA …

 

Jim Downey

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And the sky, full of stars … *

I should have some interesting news to share in a couple of days. But for now, I thought I would share this amazing post from Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy:

Andromeda

Yesterday, I posted an amazing Hubble Space Telescope picture. I don’t think it’s too soon to post another shot from Hubble… and I think you’ll agree when you see it, especially after you get an understanding of what you’re seeing.

First, the eye candy: The magnificent Andromeda Galaxy, as seen by Hubble.

 

And as Plait notes, that’s the low-resolution image.

Go enjoy the article, and marvel at the images he has/links to. Seriously — it is worth your while, if you’re any kind of a space-geek at all.

 

Jim Downey

*With apologies to JMS.



As above, so below.

* * * * * * *

From Chapter 1:

Jon spoke. “That’s typical. Sidwell is a bit of an old coot. He’s about 80, close as anyone can get him to admit. He has been at the forefront of exploration all along, having started with the Israeli colonies on the Moon, and was one of the first prospectors to establish himself on Titan.”

* * * * * * *

NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy

The secretive government agency that flies spy satellites has made a stunning gift to NASA: two exquisite telescopes as big and powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope. They’ve never left the ground and are in storage in Rochester, N.Y.

* * *

The telescopes were built by private contractors for the National Reconnaissance Office, one of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. The telescopes have 2.4-meter (7.9-foot) mirrors, just like the Hubble, but they have 100 times the field of view. Their structure is shorter and squatter.

* * *

The announcement Monday raised the obvious question of why the intelligence agency would no longer want, or need, two Hubble-class telescopes. A spokeswoman, Loretta DeSio, provided information sparingly.

“They no longer possessed intelligence-collection uses,” she said of the telescopes.

* * * * * * *

“The Israeli colonies on the Moon?” When did that happen?

Now.

One of the plot points for St. Cybi’s Well all along has been that Darnell Sidwell had been a shuttle pilot for a secret operation by Israel (with the tacit support of most of the governments of the major world powers) to establish permanent colonies on the far side of the Moon. That effort was well along by 2012, which is when the novel is set.

Remember, the timeline for Communion of Dreams isn’t exactly our timeline. It is very, very similar to ours, but there are some divergences.

The biggest worry I have had for some time was how to say that such a space program could exist without people knowing about it. In fact, earlier work on St. Cybi’s Well revolved around this very point as an espionage/counter-espionage sub-plot. I was concerned that it might be *too* outlandish an idea for readers to be able to suspend their disbelief.

So much for that concern; we’ve just found out that what we thought was at the limits of our technology is so obsolete that it can be handed off as so much surplus junk. And the implication is that while NASA is currently without the means to launch and service something like Hubble, that there are plenty other agencies within our government which are not so inconvenienced.

* * * * * * *

Ex-Spy Telescope May Get New Identity as a Space Investigator

The phone call came like a bolt out of the blue, so to speak, in January 2011. On the other end of the line was someone from the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation’s fleet of spy satellites. They had some spare, unused “hardware” to get rid of. Was NASA interested?

* * *

The telescope’s short length means its camera could have the wide field of view necessary to inspect large areas of the sky for supernovae.

Even bigger advantages come, astronomers say, from the fact that the telescope’s diameter, 94 inches, is twice as big as that contemplated for Wfirst, giving it four times the light-gathering power, from which a whole host of savings cascade.

* * * * * * *

From Sir Isaac Newton’s translation of the Emerald Tablet:

Tis true without lying, certain most true.

That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.

And as all things have been arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.

The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nurse.

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.

Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
– Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.

It ascends from the earth to the heaven again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.

And yes, that is a hint about another part of what’s to come in St. Cybi’s Well.

* * * * * * *

Enjoy today’s Transit. As above, so below.

Jim Downey