NASA Drawing - Atmospheric Distortion Explained

NASA Drawing - Atmospheric Distortion Explained Astronomy Education Aviation & Space Exploration STEM

One of the reasons why the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is so effective is that it peers into space from Low-Earth Orbit.

Because it is positioned in Low-Earth Orbit, Hubble avoids all the atmospheric distortions which occur immediately above terra firma (where we live and where Earth-positioned observatories are located). 

This NASA-produced drawing—"Plot of Earth's Atmospheric Transmittance (or opacity) to Various Wavelengths of Electromagnetic Radiation"—helps us to better understand atmospheric distortion.

How effective is Hubble as it peers into space? NASA gives us a comparison to help us understand the orbiting telescope's awesome ability to view far-away items:

Outside the haze of our atmosphere, Hubble can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from your home in Maryland.

Can you imagine?!

Observatories are located away from city lights and positioned on high elevations. Space, where Hubble orbits, is better than being on the top of the world’s highest mountain. NASA tells us why Hubble’s location is so important:

Hubble, the observatory, is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space, the ultimate mountaintop. Above the distortion of the atmosphere, far far above rain clouds and light pollution, Hubble has an unobstructed view of the universe. Scientists have used Hubble to observe the most distant stars and galaxies as well as the planets in our solar system.

Click on the image for a much-better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Feb 26, 2020

Media Credits

NASA illustration; online, courtesy NASA.





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"NASA Drawing - Atmospheric Distortion Explained" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Feb 25, 2020.
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