On Oct. 12th, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) arrived safely at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana after spending 16 days traveling between California and South America. Since then, the observatory was transported to a cleanroom in the Guyanese Space Center (GSC). Here, crews “unboxed” the observatory from its protective cargo container in preparation for launch – now targetted for Dec. 18th.
These events were captured in a series of beautiful images recently shared by the Guyanese Space Center, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA via their JWST Twitter accounts (more are posted on the NASA JWST Flickr page). This process involved carefully lifting the telescope from its packing container and raising it vertically, the same configuration Webb its launches to space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.
Continue reading “I Could Look at James Webb Unboxing Pictures all Day”
If you’re looking for doomsday, you can forget about asteroid Apophis. The latest radar observations have effectively ruled out any possibility of this near-Earth object (NEO) hitting Earth for the foreseeable future.
Continue reading “Careful Calculations Show That Earth is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for at Least 100 Years”
NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is getting closer and closer to its launch date in 2025. This Hubble-class wide-field infrared telescope is going to help astronomers discover the nature of dark energy, discover planets, and perform large area surveys of the night sky.
But even with its power, the telescope will be limited in its ability to examine planets.
A team of engineers is proposing to fly a follow-on mission to Nancy Grace: a Starshade. This petal-shaped spacecraft could fly in formation with the telescope, blocking the light from stars, and helping it see the fainter planets nearby.
An exceptional telescope gets an upgrade? That seems like a win-win.
Continue reading “Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope Could Get A Starshade Of Its Own”
In the vein of “go big or go home,” the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has launched a stunning new website to showcase information about — and match the scale of — its Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), the highly anticipated observatory scheduled to have first light in 2025.
Continue reading “Here’s the Extremely New Website for the Extremely Large Telescope”
The National Science Foundation released two different videos today showing the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory, as it happened on December 1, 2020. Needless to say, the footage is heartbreaking.
Continue reading “Now you can Watch Actual Video of Arecibo Collapsing … If You Dare”
Early this morning, the 900-ton instrument platform suspended above the Arecibo Observatory collapsed and crashed down on the iconic telescope’s giant dish. The collapse occurred at about 7:55 a.m. local time, officially ending any possible hopes of refurbishing the famous observatory in Puerto Rico.
Images of the collapse and subsequent damage started appearing on social media this morning; the National Science Foundation then confirmed via tweet that indeed the observatory had collapsed. They also said no injuries were reported.
Continue reading “The Arecibo Observatory Platform Has Collapsed”
Everyone loves lasers. And the only thing better than a bunch of lasers is a bunch of lasers on one of the world’s (soon to be) largest telescopes, the E-ELT. Well, maybe a bunch of lasers on a time-travelling T. Rex that appears in your observatory and demands to know the locations and trajectories of incoming asteroids. That might be better. For the dinosaurs; not for us.
Continue reading “A New Artist’s Illustration of the Extremely Large Telescope. So Many Lasers”
Ever wonder how modern astronomical observatories take such clear images of distant objects? Advances in mirror design have allowed for larger and larger primary mirrors. But adaptive optics play a huge role, too.
Continue reading “The Carina Nebula. Seen With and Without Adaptive Optics”
Modern astronomical telescopes are extraordinarly powerful. And we keep making them more powerful. With telescopes like the Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope seeing first light in the coming years, our astronomical observing power will be greater than ever.
But a new commentary says that climate change could limit the power of our astronomical observatories.
Continue reading “Climate Change is Making the Atmosphere Worse for Astronomy”
Every year, the Pacific Northwest and California experience “wildfire season,” a period where heat and low humidity combine, leading to an increased risk of fires. This year has been particularly bad and in California alone, wildfires have destroyed over two million acres of land, forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, and threatened many historic institutions and landmarks.
One of them is the Mount Wilson Observatory that sits atop Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Pasadena (northeast of LA). This famous observatory is home to several telescopes that were, for a time, the largest of their kind in the world. And thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters, it looks as though the Mt. Wilson Observatory is now safe amid a particularly bad wildfire season.
Continue reading “It Looks Like Firefighters Saved Mt. Wilson Observatory”