5 Reasons Why Astronomy Is Better From The Ground Than In Space
“5.) On Earth, you can observe from anywhere you want. Once your observatory goes to space, gravity and the laws of motion fix, at any given time, exactly where that spacecraft is going to be. Plenty of astronomical curiosities can be seen from everywhere, but there are some spectacular events that require you to be in a very specific location at a particular moment in time. Occultations are an extreme example of this, where a distant, small object in the Solar System passes in front of a background star, but only for a brief instant in a particular location. Neptune’s moon Triton and New Horizons’ first post-Pluto destination, MU69, both occulted background stars, with Triton doing so regularly. Space telescopes have never been lucky enough to catch these, but thanks to mobile observatories like NASA’s SOFIA, we’ve learned how Triton’s atmosphere changes with its seasons, and we’ve even discovered a small moon around MU69! Because we don’t put all our eggs in the telescopes-in-space basket, we can do the unique science that the light arriving at our world enables.”
When it comes to astronomy, space telescopes get all the love. By flying above the atmosphere, there’s no need to wait until the atmospheric and day/night conditions are right to observe; you can look at whatever you want pretty much whenever you want, and for as long as you want. You don’t have to contend with clouds or atmospheric turbulence, and the entire electromagnetic spectrum is available to look at. We normally think of these advantages, but we hardly ever think about how much worse many things are in astronomy from space. But there are legitimately huge advantages to being on the ground, and cost doesn’t even need to be a factor to come up with five tremendous ones!