National Geographic : 2009 Jul
creative venture. e same is true of scienti c discovery: Scientists can explain what they expect to accomplish with bigger and better telescopes, but such predictions are mostly just extrapolations from the past. "If you re going to Washington to seek funding for a new telescope and you make a list of what you ll see through this new window on the universe, you know that the most interesting thing it will discover is probably not on your list," says Tyson. "It s likely to be something totally new, some out-of-the- box physics that s going to blow our minds." e marvelous model of the big-bang universe pieced together in the 20th century arose largely from just such unanticipated discoveries. Edwin Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe accidentally, at the telescope: Cosmic expansion had been implied by Einstein s general theory of relativity, but Hubble knew nothing of the prediction, and not even Einstein had taken it seriously. Dark matter was discovered acciden- tally; so was dark energy. A telescope doesn t just show you what s out there; it impresses upon you how little you know, opening your imagination to wonders as big as all outdoors. " e spyglass is very truthful," said Galileo. j CLOUD FREE Crowded in prime territory, the Subaru, Keck I and II, and NASA Infrared telescopes (left to right) sit atop Hawaii's 13,796-foot Mauna Kea. Set above 40 percent of the atmosphere, they offer one of Earth's clearest views into space.