Webb is Cool, but it Still Needs to get Cooler

Cooling things down in space is trickier than it might sound.  But that is exactly the process the James Webb telescope is going through right now.  Getting down to cryogenic temperature is imperative for its infrared imaging systems to work correctly.  While the telescope has already started, it will be another few weeks before the process is complete, and it’s ready to start capturing its first groundbreaking infrared images of the universe.

Continue reading “Webb is Cool, but it Still Needs to get Cooler”

Want to Know What James Webb Looks Like in Powerful Earth Telescopes? Prepare to be Underwhelmed

The past month has been an exciting time for the James Webb Space Telescope! After launching on Christmas Day, the telescope spent the next few weeks deploying its mirrors, checking the individual segments, and then maneuvering to L2, where it will spend the next ten to twenty years unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the Chief Science Communications Officer (CSCO) for the JWST and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) for the ESA, James Webb will begin collecting light this summer.

To mark the occasion, the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) captured images of James Webb to give people a sense of what it looks like in orbit. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to see there, other than a bright dot in the night sky. But like Carl Sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot” picture of Earth (taken by Voyager 1 on its way out of the Solar System), or Cassini’s “The Day Earth Smiled” image, there’s a tremendous amount of significance in that small point of light.

Continue reading “Want to Know What James Webb Looks Like in Powerful Earth Telescopes? Prepare to be Underwhelmed”

Webb’s Mirror Now Fully Unfolded. Prepare to Witness the Power of This Unprecedented Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror is now fully unfolded, which successfully completes the mission’s major deployments. The starboard side of the primary mirror was released into place today, completing a two-week long, complex deployment sequence. The mirror of the most powerful space telescope ever built is now open, preparing to “unfold the Universe.”

Continue reading “Webb’s Mirror Now Fully Unfolded. Prepare to Witness the Power of This Unprecedented Space Telescope”

Here’s Why Webb Doesn’t Have Cameras on Board to Livestream its Deployment

Illustration of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Credits: NASA

As the James Webb Space Telescope unfolds and makes its way to its final destination in space, NASA and ESA have done a great job of sharing the experience with the public. With webcasts, livestreams and a very active social media presence, the JWST team has allowed people to watch over the shoulders of engineers and scientists, as well as ask questions about the process of commissioning the new telescope.

The most often asked question on social media and at several press conferences seems to be, why weren’t cameras put on JWST to provide actual live footage from the telescope? Wouldn’t seeing it firsthand be better than just receiving telemetry?

Continue reading “Here’s Why Webb Doesn’t Have Cameras on Board to Livestream its Deployment”

JWST Deploys its Secondary Mirror. It’s a Real Telescope Now

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a telescope.

The secondary mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope was successfully deployed in space today, an incredibly important milestone.

“We are 600,000 miles from Earth and we have a telescope,” said Bill Ochs, JWST program manager, speaking triumphantly to his team after the secondary mirror was deployed and then latched in place.

Continue reading “JWST Deploys its Secondary Mirror. It’s a Real Telescope Now”

Success! Webb Sunshield Now Fully Deployed

Illustration of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Credits: NASA

If you felt a little more tension – and perhaps more goosebumps — in the Universe today, it’s probably because the James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshield is now completely and successfully deployed! All five layers of the sunshield have been fully extended and “tensioned” into the final taut, kite-shaped configuration. This is a huge accomplishment (and huge relief) for the entire international Webb mission

“This has been many years in the making, and is a really big moment for the entire team,” said the JWST mission operations manager after the final events to tension and latch the sunshield were confirmed. “There’s nothing cooler in space than JWST!”

Continue reading “Success! Webb Sunshield Now Fully Deployed”

JWST Just Deployed a Sail That Lets it Stop Getting Pushed Around by the Sun’s Radiation.

On December 25th, 2021, astronomers and space exploration enthusiasts got the greatest Christmas present of all! After years of delays, cost overruns, and additional testing, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. In what was a real nail-biter, the Ariane 5 rocket and its precious payload reached orbit without a hitch. But as is so often the case, the deployment of the JWST was just the first in a series of “hurry up and wait” episodes.

Typically, periods of waiting are seeing are accompanied by plenty of worry and doubt. Luckily, there have been several positive developments since the JWST launched that could help alleviate these anxieties. The latest is how the telescope successfully deployed its aft momentum flap, an instrument that will keep the telescope oriented during its mission. The news was announced yesterday (December 30th) via @NASAWebb, NASA’s official Twitter account for the Webb telescope, and the JWST page at NASA Blogs.

Continue reading “JWST Just Deployed a Sail That Lets it Stop Getting Pushed Around by the Sun’s Radiation.”