Published: Aug. 12, 1997

A team led by University of Colorado at Boulder astronomers has been selected to design a new $25 million spectrograph for the Hubble Space Telescope that will be built jointly by CU and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder.

Known as the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, the instrument will gather ultraviolet light from distant stars, galaxies and quasars and will detail the physical conditions of the early universe, said CU-Boulder astronomer James Green. Green is the principal investigator on COS and a research associate at CU’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy.

We are elated and Ball Aerospace is elated,” said Green, also a research professor in the department of astrophysical and planetary sciences. “This instrument will be 20 times more sensitive than anything flying today. We should be able to better understand the origins of large-scale structures in the universe, and to look back at the physical conditions present very early in its history.”

“This instrument also will open a window on an era 10 billion years ago, when the first galaxies and chemical elements were formed,” said Michael Shull, a CU professor and COS science team member.

The instrument is planned for installation on the fourth and final Hubble servicing mission scheduled for late 2002. COS will replace COSTAR, which was built by Ball Aerospace and installed in 1993 to correct Hubble’s myopic mirror.

About the size of a telephone booth, COS will include some parts from the Goddard High-Resolution Spectrograph that was aboard Hubble when it was

launched in 1990, said Green. The GHRS, designed by a team led by CU-Boulder astronomer John Brandt and which also was built by Ball Aerospace, was removed from the orbiting telescope during a 1997 servicing mission.

The 14-member COS science team includes eight CU-Boulder astronomers as well as researchers from Ball Aerospace, the Southwest Research Institute’s Boulder office, the University of California, Berkeley, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Other CU-Boulder design team members include CASA’s John Andrews, Erik Wilkinson, Jon Morse, and faculty members Michael Shull, Ted Snow, John Stocke and Jeffrey Linsky of astrophysical and planetary sciences. The Boulder team also includes Dennis Ebbetts of Ball and Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.

The project is expected to involve a number of CU-Boulder undergraduate and graduate students in the design, fabrication and instrumentation of COS and in subsequent data analysis, said Green. The effort, expected to worth about $12 million to the university, also should result in the production of a number of CU doctoral theses beginning early in the next century, he said.

“This state-of-the-art instrument will be a premier Hubble instrument for most of the first decade of the next century,” said Edward Weiler, Hubble Space Telescope program scientist at NASA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. “It will allow astronomers to study the very early universe and the creation of the heavy elements during the first period of star formation billions of years ago.”

“This is a fantastic win for both Ball and CU,” said Don Vanlandingham, President and CEO of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

“It is one of the largest cooperative programs between Ball and CU since we started working together 40 years ago. By 1999, every axial instrument in operation aboard Hubble will have been built by Ball, and COS in 2002 will continue our legacy of high-quality engineering and instrument fabrication.”