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Astronomy club to unveil new Hubble discoveries



By Andrew Mitchell

The Hubble Space Telescope has now been circling Earth for 17 years. And while most of the media attention has focused on technical glitches and the cost of keeping this satellite running, the ability to take pictures of the cosmos for 24 hours a day, without any atmosphere to interfere, has yielded hundreds of thousand of photos and is credited with thousands of discoveries.

On Thursday, July 5, the Whistler Astronomy Club and Pacific Observatory will host Discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. The presentation will be made by Ray Villard, public information manager for the space telescope science institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. It will be preceded by a short prologue by Whistler astronomer John Nemy of the Pacific Observatory.

Among other Hubble discoveries, the telescope is credited with helping scientists determine the age of the universe, identify quasar particles, and confirm the existence of dark matter and dark energy — what Nemy calls the “construction scaffolding of the universe.”

According to Nemy, “Dark matter’s invisible gravity allows normal matter in the form of gas and dust to collect and build up into stars and galaxies.   The Hubble telescope has played a starring role in helping to shed light on dark matter, which is much more abundant than normal matter. Although astronomers cannot see dark matter they can detect it in galaxy clusters by observing how its gravity bends the light of more distant background galaxies, called gravitational lensing. Astronomers constructed the map using Hubble to measure the shapes of half a million faraway galaxies. The map, which stretches halfway back to the beginning of the universe, reveals a loose network of filaments that grew over time.”

Altogether the Hubble sends enough information to earth to fill 18 DVDs every week, and Villard’s organization is largely responsible for processing the images and translating that data into science.

“An evening with Ray (Villard) is always a bit historic,” said Nemy. “He reveals the most recent discoveries from the cosmos, stuff you see at the news stand months later, and the images are mind provoking.”

This is Villard’s third appearance in Whistler with the Whistler Astronomy Club and Pacific Observatory.

The presentation takes place at Millennium Place, starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and the box office. The price is $18 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, and $9.99 for children 12 and under.

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