THIS is a year of great expectation for astronomers as several new space-based observatories are put on station. The shuttle Discovery is due to carry the much delayed Hubble Space Telescope into orbit as early as April 19.
In May, a US-supplied Delta II rocket is scheduled to orbit West Germany's ROSAT X-ray observatory. This joint West Germany, US, and British satellite will give astronomers sharp views of celestial objects by means of the X-rays they emit.
In November, the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to orbit the US Gamma Ray Observatory. GRO will allow astronomers to study the universe at gamma ray wavelengths, which are shorter than those of X-rays. Like the Hubble satellite, GRO is one of four ``Great Observatories'' the US plans to orbit this decade.