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'Amazement and happiness': Canadian sensor on James Webb telescope passes first tests – wingsmagazine.com

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Far out in deep space, four times the distance between Earth and its moon, a piece of Canadian technology that could help reshape our understanding of the universe has passed its first crucial tests.

The systems that aim the massive James Webb Space telescope, designed and built through the Canadian Space Agency, have been used to lock on to a target star — a sign that the millions of dollars and thousands of hours spent on the signature project are going to work out just fine.

“It’s extremely satisfactory seeing everything coming into place,” said Jean Dupuis, a senior mission scientist with the agency. “It’s a sense of amazement and happiness.”

The James Webb, the result of $13 billion and more than two decades of work, is meant to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the instrument that mesmerized stargazers with its stunning images of the heavens. Webb, however, will orbit much deeper in space — about 1.6 million kilometres out — and be anywhere from a hundred to a million times more sensitive.

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Launched in late December, it is designed to study the nature of planets beyond our solar system and what the oldest galaxies around can tell us about the birth of the universe. Webb will be able to analyze exoplanetary atmospheres and gather data from so-called “First Light” galaxies, formed 13.6 billion years ago.

But it all would have been a goofy-looking piece of space junk if the Fine Guidance Sensor had failed.

“(The sensor) is mission critical,” said Dupuis, who was in the NASA control room Jan. 31 when operators flicked on its power switch after the long voyage from Earth.

“There was a lot of pressure on us,” he said. “Everybody was very happy.”

The sensor is now up and running, being used to align the telescope’s 18 mirrors. It also needs to cool down to below -200 C. That’s all likely to take until the summer.

Then, the sensor will be able to aim James Webb with stunning precision — down to a few milli-arcseconds.

“You would be able to point at a human hair from a couple kilometres away,” Dupuis said. “It’s pretty much pushing the limit of what can be done.”

Things have been going well for the mission. NASA announced in December that the telescope slipped into its orbit so neatly that the fuel savings mean it could operate for significantly longer than the original 10-year planned lifespan.

(Photo: NASA, Chris Gunn)

It’s not the only Canadian contribution to the James Webb. Its Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, which will help analyze light the telescope observes, was also designed and built in Canada.

Canada has been part of the Webb project almost from the start. At least half of the 600 scientists in the Canadian Astronomical Society have been involved with it and dozens of scientists and engineers are part of its design team.

Canada has contributed almost $200 million since the project began in 1996. As a result, Canadian astronomers are entitled to five per cent of the telescope’s observation time.

In addition to exoplanets and First Light galaxies, Canadian researchers will use Webb to study asteroids and comets close to home to the effect stars have on the space around them in distant regions of the galaxy where new stars are born.

And anticipation is building.

“I can’t wait to see the data we’ll get,” said Dupuis.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2021

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Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

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The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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