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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

How to Follow the Launch of the James Webb Space Telescope

Early risers on Saturday will be rewarded with a spectacular display of science and engineering in the form of the launch to orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope.

According to NASA, the European Space Agency and Canada’s orbit agency are all working together to build what will be the most powerful observatory ever deployed into space. Budgetary and technological obstacles have prevented the development and launch of the Webb Space Telescope from taking place for decades.

However, on Christmas morning, they and the rest of humankind will be one step closer to watching the spaceship launch into its scientific mission and begin its scientific mission.

The telescope is set to launch at 7:20 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday from a spaceport in French Guiana, off the coast of South America, that is controlled by the European Space Agency. In the event that there are any last-minute rocket inspections or short delays in the countdown, the launch window will last 32 minutes, or until 7:52 a.m. local time. If the delay is greater than expected, the launch will be postponed until the same time on Sunday.

SpaceX, the telescope’s principal supporter, will webcast the event starting at 6 a.m. EST on its YouTube page and on its official Twitter and Facebook feeds commencing at the same time. In the lead-up to the launch, agency officials will give comments with astronomers. You may also sign up for a virtual launch event if you want.

Cosmologists believe that the earliest stars originated when the universe was just approximately 100 million years old, according to their estimates. (As of now, the universe is 13.8 billion years old.) According to scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope, the furthest and earliest galaxy they have ever seen goes back to a time when the universe was younger, 400 million years after the Big Bang. I’m not sure what occurred over the intervening 300 million years when the cosmos soared to the skies in a blaze of glory, or how the Big Bang transformed into a sky full of stars and life.

The Webb telescope, which has a main mirror with a diameter of 6.5 metres, is used to make these scientific observations, while the Hubble telescope’s primary mirror has a diameter of 2.4 metres. This provides it with almost seven times the light-gathering capabilities, allowing it to view deeper into the past.

Another significant distinction is that it is outfitted with cameras and other devices that are sensitive to infrared radiation, sometimes known as “heat” radiation. The expansion of the cosmos causes light that would typically be in visible wavelengths to shift into longer infrared wavelengths that are ordinarily invisible to human sight as a result of its expansion.

As part of the process, engineers had to design ten new technologies to make the telescope more sensitive than the Hubble Space Telescope. Overly optimistic schedule forecasts, infrequent construction mishaps, and a lack of organisation in cost reporting caused the project’s completion date to be pushed back to 2021 and the total cost to inflate to $10 billion.

Try these two augmented reality activities in your own environment using a smartphone that is logged into Instagram to have a better understanding of the observational capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope and how it will benefit astronomers in their study.

With a 3-D map of the visible cosmos, the first will show you where in space and time the Webb space telescope will be looking. It depicts some of the spacecraft’s first objectives, which include exoplanets that may be Earth-like and some of the universe’s oldest known galaxies. You may try it out here on Instagram.

The second augmented reality experience demonstrates how the Webb Space Telescope will benefit from the gravitational lensing force of the Sun.

Placing a virtual black hole in your environment and seeing how it acts as a magnifying glass on your surrounds is a fascinating experiment. Astronomers will be able to use this similar approach to examine the origins of the cosmos. You may try it out here on Instagram.

A Boyle
I cover Science related topics for The National Era
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