Let’s see what’s out there
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest and most complex in history and is expected to send images to Earth this week.
The James Webb Space Telescope’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history — from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies of the early universe.
Webb’s infrared telescope will explore a wide range of science questions to help us understand the origins of the universe.
- First light and reionization
- Earliest galaxies in the universe
- How galaxies evolve
- Birth of stars and planets
- Near-infrared camera
- Near-infrared spectrograph
- Mid-infrared instrument
- Near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph with fine guidance sensor
Webb is an international collaboration between NASA and its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Thousands of engineers and hundreds of scientists worked to make Webb a reality, along with more than 300 universities, organizations and companies from 29 U.S. states and 14 countries.
Development began in 1996 for a launch initially planned for 2007 with a $500 million budget. There were many delays and cost overruns, including a major redesign in 2005, a ripped sunshield during a practice deployment, recommendations from an independent review board, a threat by the U.S. Congress to cancel the project, the COVID-19 pandemic and problems with the telescope.
Construction was completed in late 2016, followed by years of extensive testing before launch. The total project cost is expected to be about $9.7 billion.
Some Webb developments have had spinoff benefits. One example assists surgeons performing LASIK eye surgery: Engineers developed a technique for precisely and rapidly measuring the mirrors to guide their grinding and polishing.
This technology has since been adapted to creating high-definition maps of patients’ eyes for improved surgical precision.
The observatory has a temperature range from minus-390 degrees Fahrenheit on the inner layer to 260 degrees on the outer layer. It will operate at about minus-370 degrees.
Webb will peer back in time to when the universe was young — more than 13.5 billion years ago, a few hundred million years after the big bang theory — to search for the first galaxies in the universe.
Webb is so sensitive that it could theoretically detect the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the moon.
Webb will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity and sensitivity than ever before.
Unlike the short, tight wavelengths of visible light, longer wavelengths of infrared light slip past dust more easily.
Therefore, the universe of star and planet formation hidden behind clouds of dust comes into clear view for Webb’s infrared instruments.
Historyoftelescope.com timeline – significant events in telescope history
1608 — German-Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey applies his patent on what is today known as telescope. He managed to beat two other Dutch scientists (Jacob Metius and Zacharias Janssen) who also tried to register their own inventions.
1611 — The name “telescope” is created by Greek mathematician Giovanni Demisiani, during his visit at Italian science academy “Accademia dei Lincei” that hosted one of the Galileo Galilei’s telescopes. This word was coined from the words “tele” (far) and “skopein” (to look, or to see).
The Oldest Observatory in the Americas is found in Bogotá, Colombia (1803).
1970 — First telescope launched into space onboard probe Uhuru. This was also first gamma-ray telescope ever to be used.
Since 1970 there have been more than 90 Space Telescopes placed into Orbit by NASA and ESA. An average of 2 per year. Some Are Longer Lived Than Others. 61 Are No Longer Active, 26 Are Still Active.
1975 — BTA-6 is the first major telescope to use an altazimuth mount, which is mechanically simpler but requires computer control for accurate pointing.
1990 — Hubble telescope launched into Earth’s orbit. It quickly became one of the most famous and most important telescopes ever to be built.
2003 — The Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003. It is the fourth and final of the NASA Great Observatories program.
2008 — Max Tegmark and Matias Zaldarriaga created the Fast Fourier Transform Telescope.
2009 – Kepler telescope launched in space, with goal of locating planets that are orbiting our neighboring stars. It has 2.4m diameter mirror.
2011 — NASA announces plans to launch in 2018 the most ambitious space telescope of all time. James Webb Space Telescope will operate in deep space and have staggering 6.5m diameter mirror.
2022 — The James Webb telescope is launched by NASA.
In the July skies
July 13 – Full Buck Moon Super Supermoon at 2:38 p.m.While this will be the “biggest” full Moon of 2022, the variation of the Moon’s distance will not be apparent to observers. However the Moon’s closeness to Earth does dramatically affect the tides, which may cause severe coastal flooding.At 3 a.m. on this day the Moon will arrive at perigee. This means that the Moon will get the closest it will come to Earth in all of 2022, 221,994 miles away. Its gravitational pull creates extreme high and low ocean tides. Such a tide is known as a perigean spring tide.
July 29 – Two Meteor Showers PeakSeveral long-lasting meteor showers appear to dart from the southern part of the sky from mid-July through August. The Moon being in its “new” phase combined with two meteor shower reaching their peak makes for a great opportunity to catch a shooting star.The South Delta Aquarid shower, which emanates from the constellation Aquarius, will reach its maximum on this morning. (Start looking after midnight.) Also peaking around this time is the Alpha Capricornid shower, which emanates from the constellation Capricornus. There will be a high proportion of bright meteors. Look to the southern sky.
Sources: NASA, History of Telescope, Space.com, The Associated Press Top image is a artist conception NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez
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