HST SM4: Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

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HST SM4: Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph
09.02.08
 
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Dave Lekrone, HST Chief Scientist, NASA: Spectroscopes or spectrographs are absolutely essential in that toolbox of astronomical tools that are so important for research. They produce ugly pictures. But they are the nuts and bolts of physical science. They put the physics in astrophysics.

If you look out across the universe today and you start seeing this inhomogeneous web-like structure with filaments, places where filaments come together, looks just like a big three-dimensional spider web, tracing all those filaments is the light of ordinary stars and galaxies.

Mike Shull, Astronomer, University of Colorado: It’s ordinary matter that the planets and stars and humans are made of, hydrogen, helium, chemical elements. But it’s been a mystery because galaxies and stars account for maybe just 10 percent of this matter, ordinary matter in the universe. We’ve been wondering for decades, “Where’s the rest of this matter?”

With dark matter almost being certainly have been produced as a byproduct of the Big Bang, all that gravity from the dark matter tended to be the most important force that pulled material together.

Dave Lekrone, HST Chief Scientist, NASA: COS wants to trace that part of the story, the history of our universe.

Mike Shull, Astronomer, University of Colorado There’s two things you want to do as an astronomer. You want to build a bigger telescope to gather more light and you also want to spread it out to its colors, its components. It’s called taking a spectrum. COS does both of those things 10 or 20 times better than has ever been done before.

Dave Lekrone, HST Chief Scientist, NASA: If you want to know what something is made of, how hot it is, how dense it is, how fast it’s moving in space. A spectrograph will give you all that information. With COS, we can acquire information like that, farther out across the universe than we’ve ever been able to do before.

Deep down inside, we just want to know where we came from and how we got here.

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