Astrophysics Launches Technology

Astrophysicists strive to answer fundamental questions about the cosmos, from the origin of the universe in the big bang to the processes that form planets and lead to life on earth and possibly elsewhere. Technologies pioneered by astrophysicists to study the heavens have led to revolutionary advances in numerous fields including the $6 billion medical imaging industry, the $400 billion semiconductor industry, and the $1.5 trillion telecommunications industry

Semiconductor Industry
Astronomers developed X-ray and UV optics which help advance microchip lithography.
• Semiconductor manufacturers rely on quality control systems that include infrared detector arrays developed by astronomers.
• X-ray spectrometers that determine the chemical composition of cosmic plasmas are now checking for impurities in computer chip fabrication lines.

Security
• The most common type of airport luggage scanners uses detectors first developed for x-ray astronomy.
• Technology from telescopes and observatories has been incorporated into satellites that monitor military activities around the globe.
• Astronomical image analysis techniques are now being used to sharpen photographs for police work.

Medical Imaging
• UV CCDs designed for Hubble Space Telescope are now incorporated into breast biopsy machines that reduce surgery and associated costs by as much 75%.
• Sensitive x-ray CCDs developed for astronomical imaging replace film in dental x-rays, minimizing exposure to radiation.
• Adaptive optics from advanced telescopes help map the eye retina and may lead to improved optical surgery and corrective lenses.

Computing Solutions
• The FORTH programming language, developed at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, has been used to develop applications for computers carried by Federal Express agents, auto engine analyzers, and Kodak’s film manufacturing process.

Portable xxx -ray
•The portable Low Intensity X-ray Imaging Scope (Lixiscope) is now NASA’s second largest source of royalties, and is increasingly common in emergency rooms, sports health facilities, and other areas where rapid, low level x-ray images are vital.

High Performance Graphics
• The popular IDL graphical package originated from imaging software written for the Mariner Mars probes

Archeology & Artifacts
• Astrophysicists used infrared imaging technology to document the status of the Star Spangled Banner and to monitor its future degradation.
• Earth imaging satellites are guiding archeologists to prehistoric cities buried beneath desert sands.

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