Craft & Design Science
Telescopes ‘worthless’ by 2050

Nomorescopes
Get outside and see some stars folks – “Ground-based astronomy could be impossible in 40 years because of pollution from aircraft exhaust trails and climate change, an expert says. Aircraft condensation trails – known as contrails – can dissipate, becoming indistinguishable from other clouds. If trends in cheap air travel continue, says Professor Gerry Gilmore, the era of ground astronomy may come to an end much earlier than most had predicted.”Link.

Related: Webcam Telescope by Dennison Bertram in DIY: Imaging. Video from still camera zoom. Forget jerky teleconferences; put a real lens on a 90s era webcam and you’ve got something. MAKE 02 – Page 133.

4 thoughts on “Telescopes ‘worthless’ by 2050

  1. Of course, some would argue that the age of cheap air travel will soon end. From a Michael Ventura editorial for the Austin Chronicle:

    In the last year, the price of jet fuel has risen 50% (NY Times, Sept. 15, p.C1). The airlines have desperately tried to absorb this price hike, keeping fares low and hoping for the best. But those days will be over by Easter, if not Thanksgiving. USA Today, Sept. 15, p.1B: “The airline’s jet-fuel bill this year will be about $3.3 billion [a pre-Rita figure], up from $2.2 billion last year and $1.6 billion in 2003.” That article notes that four of our seven largest airlines are now in Chapter 11: “51% of the USA’s top 12 airlines is now operating under bankruptcy protection.” The article quotes James May, CEO of the Air Transport Association: “No business model of any airline can survive with sustained jet-fuel prices of $90 to $100 a barrel.” Yet those are exactly the prices predicted by many experts in the relatively near future; a major natural or manmade disruption could bring them about in a day. There is no relief in sight. This situation cannot be sustained. The average driver may be able to absorb fuel costs for a few years more, but not the average flier. Within a year – or two, or three? – affordable passenger flight will be history.

  2. While ground based astronomy may be in doubt, the cost associated with getting into space should drop to levels that make space based astronomy just as cheap as the ground level stuff. For example, we’re working on a suborbital reusable launch vehicle that can give you about 8 to 10 minutes of time above the atmosphere for about $250/kg.

    So, as electronics and adaptive optics improve you can easily fit a good bit of telescope as a payload on a cheap suborbital flight. Extrapolate that to orbit with nanosats and you can easily envision a world where every astronomer has his/her own personal Hubble.

    40 years is a LOOOONG time to extrapolate current technology change rates through. By then we could easily have bio-engineered eyes that can see in wavelengths that pass through clouds.

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