This paper presents a reflection on the presentation hosted by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). The event provided insight into the process that takes place between the scientific idea and Hubble press releases. The presentation allowed me to learn a lot about the phases of Hubble observation, as well as current missions in the space, and the machines used for the operations. The speakers have changed my perspective on Hubble press releases and helped me to realize their significance.
What Was Learned
The primary purpose of the event was to discuss the process of pursuing scientific observation with the Hubble Space Telescope. However, the presentation provided many insights into the current missions and operations of the STScI as well. First, the host, Dr. Frank Summers, presented the mission updates. He started with the discussion of the Hubble Space Telescope and noted that the telescope was not functioning for three weeks due to gyroscope failure, which was later resolved.
The presentation was easy to understand because the host explained the role of each of the presented machines. For example, he reported that the function of the Kepler machine was to observe stars and to identify light dips (“From Scientific Idea”). Another mission update considered the Dawn mission, whose aim was to study Vesta and Ceres asteroids. Second, Dr. Summers presented scientific results of current missions. He talked about the evidence of exo-moon, which was explored by the Kepler machine.
Dr. Bill Blair, an astronomer and a project scientist for user support for the Hubble telescope, discussed the process that is associated with every scientific mission with Hubble. This discussion presented valuable insight to me; as usual, people do not realize how much work astronomers and the team should do to achieve good results. Dr. Blair showed the pictures of galaxies and revealed how one of them, the photo of the Southern Pinwheel, was made.
He reported that the process started with an idea or a question that had to be answered. Then, the team created a proposal that was later reviewed and accepted. The next stage was planning and scheduling, which required several months of work. Then, the observation data was captured, processed, and archived. Finally, after the scientific analysis of the data, the work and the pictures were published. Dr. Blair explained that for every mission, the STScI and astronomers work together and that each stage of the process is complex.
For example, the planning phase may include five steps, such as the detailed proposal, technical review, approximate yearlong observation plan, sequence science observations, and constructing and sending commands. Each of these steps may take around one month or more to complete.
Dr. Blair also provided a detailed outline of each of the steps on the example of the M83 observation mission. He discussed the idea and motivation in detail and talked about the information that is required to write a proposal for the Hubble Space Telescope. Moreover, his data showed that less than a third of all proposals become approved (“From Scientific Idea”). Dr. Blair’s lecture showed that observational operations require many preliminary calculations and that data analysis is a very complex process, too, as it involves measurement and comparison.
Reflections on the Presentation
There are several things I would like to note about the presentation and the insights it has provided. First, the event was not designed only for astronauts or people related to the field but for the public as well. The language of the presentation was easy to understand, Dr. Summer and Dr. Blair explained all of the terms and processes in detail and answered the audience’s questions clearly.
Second, the presentation provided significant insight into the process that is associated with the Hubble observation. In my opinion, many people do not realize that scientific observations require much preliminary work, as well as detailed analysis after the operation is completed. It was surprising to me that the application process was so complex, and that a high number of proposals are rejected. Dr. Blair’s example, when his proposal for M83 observation was denied four times and approved five years since the first application, helped me to realize that scientists should place a significant effort to perform their research.
Finally, it is notable that the STScI aims to make the obtained data interesting to the public. For example, Dr. Summer discussed the film created in collaboration between the STScI, Eric Whitacre, and 59 production companies, which is dedicated to the findings of the Hubble Deep Field (“From Scientific Idea”). The project features the pictures of galaxies, planets, and stars, that, along with the soundtrack, can allow the public viewer to learn more about space and become interested in astronautics.
Hubble observation is a complex process that involves several significant phases that include the presentation of a concept, proposal, planning, and data collection. The STScI presentation shows that the process between a scientific idea and the research can be challenging, requires much time, and involves many participants. The event provided me with valuable insight into the difficulties scientists and researchers encounter and allowed me to realize that Hubble observations require much effort and dedication.
“From Scientific Idea to Published Results (and Everything in Between!).” YouTube, uploaded by Hubble Space Telescope. 2018. Web.