The search for mini galaxies

The history of the Hubble Space Telescope (named after astronomer Edwin Hubble)-launched in the early 1990s-really began in 1946 when U.S. astronomer Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997) suggested building an observatory platform in space. The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) is an infrared space observatory and is the fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories; it is named after the famous astronomer.

Note: Last week's column anticipated the successful launch of the NASA carbon dioxide sniffing satellite. Unfortunately, the rocket carrying the spacecraft failed to achieve orbit and NASA got egg on its face. We'll examine this mishap in a future column. Last week's incident is an example that space exploration continues to be a risky business; even small human errors can be catastrophic.

What's in the Sky: Spring is associated with the constellation of the Ram-Aries. The March equinox (the start of spring here in about two weeks) is called mysteriously the First Point of Aries. This is a strange title because our Sun appears in Pisces on the day of the equinox. So what's up? Well, the Aries reference dates to ancient times when the Sun was in Aries at springtime. The title stuck and astronomers (thanks to astrologers) still use it.

Lou Varricchio is a former NASA science writer. He is NASA's Solar System Ambassador in Vermont.

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