Space

China Announces New Space Observatory That Could Outperform Hubble

March 15, 2016 | by Robin Andrews

Photo credit: Hubble, one of NASA's "Great Observatories," as seen from Space Shuttle Discovery. NASA

Hubble is singlehandedly responsible for producing the most incredible, awe-inspiring space imagery in human history. Throughout its nearly 26-year-long mission, it has shown us the shimmering remnants of stars, bipolar planetary nebulae, powerful supernovae and the pillars of creation. Not one to be outdone, China has announced that it’s building its own space-bound telescope that’ll outperform the veteran NASA and ESA observatory.

According to the People’s Daily Online, it will have a field-of-view over 300 times that of Hubble, and it will spend a decade in space capturing images of the cosmos. As with Hubble, China hopes that their as-of-yet unnamed space observatory will improve humanity’s understandings of the origin, evolution and eventual demise of the universe.

Significantly, this new “optical module” will orbit near the under-construction Chinese space station Tiangong. When repairs are needed, it will be able to dock and on-board Chinese astronauts – known as taikonauts – will patch it up. This docking ability will solve a huge operational problem that NASA has with Hubble, in that it needs to launch astronauts and engineers into space each and every time it needs to be fixed.

However, unlike NASA missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, this announcement comes with sparse detail: No timeline, cost estimations, or technical specifications have been mentioned by any Chinese scientific institution. So far, it’s just a concept – albeit a rather cool one at that.

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