Local astronomer leads world committee using Hubble Space Telescope

Published: May. 22, 2019 at 11:41 AM EDT
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Some of the best deep-space photos in the world are taken outside of earth’s atmosphere through the Hubble Space Telescope. It is easier to get into Yale or Harvard than to get access to it.

One astronomer at the University of Toledo not only beat the odds this year by winning coveted observation time during the most competitive cycle in history, she actually leads the powerful international committee fueling Hubble’s new discoveries.

Rupali Chandar was born just a couple months after the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, and she has been looking to the sky ever since. Chandar was studying to be an astronomer when the promising Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990. But after 1.5 billion dollars and 2 decades of planning, the universe essentially gained a 12-ton piece of space junk. Chandar said, “They had messed up. There was this spherical aberration which was blurring the images." It took an out of this world mission to clear up the view.

Astronauts were sent to fix Hubble. Then one image at a time, the Hubble Space Telescope changed our view of space, and advanced our knowledge of the universe to hundreds of millions of light years beyond our galaxy.

Chandar said, “Hubble gives us this amazing ability to look at nearby galaxies like our own Milky Way, but to see them in their entirety. So then we can actually map out the locations, the ages, the masses of clusters of stars." That is exactly what Chandar has done with more than 20 research projects involving the space telescope.

As Hubble zips around the earth at 17,000 mph, Chandar can look into the window of outer space right from her office on the University of Toledo Campus and make cutting edge discoveries in the process.

Even if you aren’t taking snapshots on the world’s deep-space camera, you can still feel the impact of astronomy’s achievements. The computer and technology advancements have left you with high-resolution cameras on smart phones and GPS. It also has improved health care. The James Webb Space Telescope will join Hubble in space within 2 years. It is move sensitive and covers longer wavelengths

Doctor Chandar has one other connection to the moon landing in 1969. She was lucky enough to go to the First Light Gala in 2012 to celebrate the debut of the Discovery Channel’s telescope. Neil Armstrong was the guest speaker and it ended up being his last public appearance.