Future Space Exploration

How can technology help advance the field of astronomy?
Answered by Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik and Dr. Jeff Hall
  • Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik

    Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik

  • Dr. Jeff Hall

    Dr. Jeff Hall

  1. Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik Astronomer, Lowell Observatory


    The advances in technology, I think that we'll be able to probe to fainter stars and stars that are farther away. We haven't even looked at all the faint stars that are nearby because they're fainter, and in some cases, harder to find. We'll be finding more planets that are close to us but around more difficult stars to observe.

    The most exciting thing, I think, with the newest technologies that are coming online, including JWST and the new techniques that Hubble has with the servicing mission, is to characterize the planets that we do know. So finding new planets is important for statistics. It's important for finding the Goldilocks planet of Earthlike habitability.

    It's important to see the extremes, to find the extremes of the other stellar systems. How many Jupiters can we have in a system? How many tiny planets can we have? What's the tiniest planet that we can observe? All these extremes are very important, and the technology of finding planets will be fascinating.

    But what really excites me is the characterization of these planets. What can we learn from them about their atmospheres, about their interiors, what's on their surfaces, what are they made of, these sorts of things? Now we can start doing what people are calling comparative planetology; I think it's a new catchphrase. That's something fascinating where we can start studying planets almost as well as we can study our own solar system planets.

    More answers from Dr. Evgenya Shkolnik »

  2. Dr. Jeff Hall Astronomer, Director, Lowell Observatory


    It's a very fortunate time to be in astronomy. The technological advances of the last 40 years have enabled us to make leaps we could not have made in the 20th century. The advent of the Space Age and the satellite era, the ability to launch observatories that can observe objects from above the Earth's atmosphere and peer into regions of the electromagnetic spectrum we couldn't see before, unleashed a watershed of results.

    In my particular area, stellar astrophysics, the satellites of the late 1970s to early 1980s, observing in the far ultraviolet and X-ray regions of the spectrum, transformed our understanding of the stars. At the same time, the development of the charge-coupled device, or CCD, which is the detector of choice -- very much like what's in your digital camera now -- enabled, revolutionized the collection and analysis of astronomical data. Today, large, modern CCD detectors allow us to do very precise imaging and spectroscopy of objects in a digitized way.

    More answers from Dr. Jeff Hall »

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