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Q&A: General Astronomy and Space Science

Q:
How many years is the Hubble telescope scheduled to be in operation, and what is next. Hubble can see 11 billion light years into the known universe ... how far will the next telescope reach?

A:
NGST
The Hubble Telescope should be in operation until at least 2007 and, we hope beyond. The Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is in the conceptual design phase. It is planned for 2007. With a diameter of 6 to 8 meters, it will be optimized for cosmological studies in the near infrared. It should be able to see galaxies that have spectral redshifts of ten or more, corresponding to more than 90% of the way back to the beginning of the expansion of the universe, that is, the Big Bang. Estimates of the age of the universe vary from 12 to 20 billion years. If we take a number in the middle, such as 16 billion years, then the NGST will see objects that are more than 14 billion light years away. One of the most exciting prospects for the NGST is that astronomers will be able to see back to the time before galaxies formed.

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