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Telescopes. How do we see the Universe?

Both on the ground and in the sky telescopes help us better understand the universe and our place in it. The first telescope was thought to be invented in the 1600s and ever since then, the technology has only gotten more and more refined. 

Here we will look at the different telescope projects from around the world that are helping to advance space exploration and in turn helping Asgardia, the first ever space nation, move closer to their goals of ensuring the peaceful use of space for everyone. 

Our first example is the 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope whose home is in the remote South African town of Carnarvon. When the MeerKAT telescope is integrated into the complex Square Kilometre Array (SKA) instrument, which will be fully functional in the late 2020s, it will become the biggest and most powerful radio telescope in the world. By using up to 3,000 dishes it will be able to scan the sky 10,000 times faster with 50 times the sensitivity of any other telescope and generate images that exceed the resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope. Experts are working on a scientific mega-project to help solve cosmic mysteries such as dark matter and identifying extraterrestrial life and MeerKAT will greatly help with that project.

Moving from South Africa to Chile we have the world’s largest optical telescope aptly named The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). ELT will have a primary mirror composed of almost 800 individual segments and will be able to collect more light than all of the existing 8-to-10-meter telescopes on Earth, combined. According to a statement by Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s Director General, the ELT will discover things that we cannot imagine today, and it will inspire people from all over the world to think about science, technology and our place in the universe.

Seeing as Chile has the clearest skies in the world another important project is taking place there. The French-LedExTrA(Exoplanets in Transits and their Atmospheres) project is using three new telescopes to search for light signals from far off worlds and hunt for exoplanets that could host life as we know it. 

And moving from Chile into space itself we have two important projects. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia space observatory. Both these telescopes have helped determine exact distances between nearby galaxies using Cepheid variables, a type of star, in the Milky Way galaxy, as well as in other galaxies. 

Using measurements from both telescopes, the most accurate rate of the expansion of the universe has been calculated. The Hubble telescope has helped researchers determine how bright Cepheids can be at different distances. This has helped them eliminate errors in the calculation of distances between intergalactic bodies. New measurements have shown approximately the same figure – 73.56 kilometres per second. The margin of error here is only 0.01%. 

Lastly, we have the much anticipated James Webb Telescope set for launch in 2021, who will serve as a successor to the Hubble Telescope. This project will examine the cosmos to reveal the history of the universe all the way from the Big Bang to alien planet formation and more. The focus of the mission has four main components: first light in the universe, assembly of galaxies in the early universe, the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems, and planets (including the origins of life.)

All these projects are of importance to Asgardia who continues to monitor space research, closely. As Asgardia follows the new findings of various space agencies of the major players we work towards our goal of making space accessible for all humanity.