May 8, 2009

Spectrograph to look back at universe

A spectrograph destined for the Hubble Telescope will look back several billion years and help reconstruct the early universe, scientists in Colorado said.

The $70 million Cosmic Origin Spectrograph is to be carried to the Hubble aboard the shuttle Atlantis on its May 11 launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said James Green, a scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The spectrograph -- the size of a telephone booth -- was built by the university and its industrial partner, Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp.

The instrument will gather data from ultraviolet light emanating from distant objects. That should help researchers better understand the cosmic web of material that permeates the universe, Green said.

Scientists will analyze light absorbed by material in the web to form a picture of how gases are distributed and how matter has changed as the universe has aged, Green said.