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Canadian-made tools on Webb space telescope help provide spectacular views of space

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LONGUEUIL, Que. — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, outfitted with two Canadian-built systems that help capture images, is already astounding the scientists who worked for years to get the instrument operational.

The United States space agency released on Tuesday four new stunning images taken by the telescope, including of a cloud of gas surrounding a dying star and of the edge of a young star-forming region about 7,600 light-years away. A day earlier, the White House released the first image taken by the telescope: a deep-field photo of galaxies more than 13 billion years old.

“I’m a scientist and I’ve been working on this project for 20 years … several times in the past six months, I’ve nearly broken my jaw with what I saw — these incredible images,” said René Doyon, a physics professor at Université de Montréal and the person in charge of the Canadian-made tools on the telescope.

“I think our fellow scientists will feel the same thing when they look at the data. These data are just amazing. I think it’s fair to say today we’re turning the page — I know its cliché but it’s true — on several new chapters on exoplanet atmosphere, the early universe, star formation, and we don’t know what we’re going to find; it’s exciting.”

The five images released by NASA are the first since the telescope — a US$10-billion joint partnership with the Canadian and European space agencies — was launched in late December 2021.

The Webb telescope is equipped with two crucial Canadian-built systems that are key to its success. They include a Fine Guidance Sensor, which helps aim the telescope, and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, which helps analyze light. Both Canadian instruments are working properly.

The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb is deployed much farther out — about 1.6 million kilometres from Earth. The orbiting infrared observatory is 100 times more powerful than its predecessor launched in 1990.

Nathalie Ouellette, an astrophysicist and Webb outreach scientist in Canada, says Hubble focused on visible light while Webb uses infrared light, allowing scientists to “pierce through cosmic dust and gas and look at different types of objects.”

“We’re opening up a new window on the universe and an incredible tool to do it,” Ouellette said at the Canadian Space Agency, which held an event Tuesday for the launch. “In such a small amount of time — really a fraction of the time it would’ve taken for Hubble to take images like this — we already see so much more detail, so much more structure, many more galaxies.”

Ouellette said the images astounded her. “We were expecting something good but there’s just a gut punch when you see the actual image that you can’t predict, and I really feel that emotional response to seeing them.”

One discovery so far from the telescope is the presence of water molecules in the atmosphere of WASP-96 b, an exoplanet — a planet outside the solar system — in orbit around a sun-like star located roughly 1,150 light-years from Earth.

The exoplanet atmosphere had been studied using Hubble, but there were no signs of haze or clouds in the atmosphere, Ouellette said. Webb’s infrared capabilities, however, show the same planet in a different light.

“We have never been able to look at the chemical structure of a galaxy that is over 13 billion years old and we’re able to do that with just the first image of the deep field with Webb,” she said. “We already know things we didn’t know just two weeks ago, so who knows what we’ll know in two months or two years.”

Among the stunning images released Tuesday included the Southern Ring Nebula, about 2,500 light-years away, which is a cloud of gas surrounding a dying star. Another shows the edge of a young star-forming region in the Carina Nebula, about 7,600 light-years away. There’s also an image of Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, first discovered about 225 years ago.

Sarah Gallagher, science adviser to the Canadian Space Agency president, said that Tuesday was an emotional day because the telescope had been more than two decades in the making. “Everyone talks about how emotional they get, and it’s because it all worked so beautifully,” Gallagher said.

“It was so hard, and just the fact that all of these people working together around the world were able to make something so beautiful, so precise, so functional, and it’s delivering exactly or even better than promised.”

Neil Rowlands, engineering fellow at Honeywell Aerospace, was involved in the development of both Canadian-made instruments. He was present at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland when the Canadian contributions were first turned on.

“It worked out of the box; I guess it’s a testament to all the rehearsals and testing done on the ground,” Rowlands said.

Next, scientific operations will begin with scientists all over the world getting a chance to use Webb. The schedule for the first year is already booked and will include 14-Canadian led projects and 72 others with Canadian co-leads.

“We’ve got years and years to go of great scientific discoveries,” Ouellette said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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Top Scientist Admits Webb Telescope Star Photo Was Actually Chorizo – PetaPixel

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A prominent French physicist is apologizing after admitting that a viral “distant star” photo he shared on Twitter was not actually captured by the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) but was rather just a slice of chorizo pork sausage.

On July 31st, Etienne Klein, research director of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, tweeted the photo to his 90,000+ followers on Twitter and claimed that it was a new Webb telescope photo showing the closest star to our Sun.

“Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us,” Klein wrote in the Tweet (as translated by Google). “It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This level of detail… A new world is unveiled day after day.”

A screenshot of Etienne Klein’s Tweet.

The tweet went viral and was retweeted thousands of times as people marveled at the imaging power of the Webb telescope, which has been wowing the world with never-before-possible space photos, including shots of the oldest galaxies ever observed.

In follow-up tweets, Klein revealed that what he had Tweeted was just a slice of Spanish sausage.

“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy… Beware of it,” Klein writes. “According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth.

“In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images…”

After receiving angry backlash to his tweet, however, the scientist apologized a few days later for spreading “fake news” that confused quite a number of people, stating that it was just a joke that was intended to warn his followers to be cautious about photos seen online.

“I come to present my apologies to those whom my hoax, which had nothing original about it, may have shocked,” he writes. “I simply wanted to urge caution with images that seem eloquent on their own. A scientist’s joke.”

Prominent French physicist Etienne Klein. Photo by Thesupermat and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Klein also tweeted Webb’s recent gorgeous photo of the Cartwheel Galaxy, assuring his followers that the photo was “real this time.”

“This is the first time I’ve made a joke when I’m more on this network as a figure of scientific authority,” the physicist later told the Paris-based news magazine Le Point. “The good news is that some immediately understood the deception, but it also took two tweets to clarify, ”explains the researcher.

“It also illustrates the fact that on this type of social network, fake news is always more successful than real news. I also think that if I hadn’t said it was a James-Webb photo, it wouldn’t have been so successful.”

The James Webb Space Telescope launched in December 2021 and officially began making scientific observations on July 12th, 2022. Now the largest optical telescope in space, it is using its unprecedented imaging capabilities to capture pioneering astronomical and cosmological images, including shots of atmospheres of exoplanets as well as the first stars and galaxies created at the beginning of the universe.

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KPLO | Falcon 9 Block 5 – Everyday Astronaut

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Lift Off Time
August 4, 2022 – 23:08 UTC | 19:08 EDT
Mission Name
KPLO, Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
SpaceX
Customer
(Who paid for this?)
Korea Aerospace Research Institute
Rocket
Falcon 9 Block 5, B1052-6; 78.51 day turnaround time
Launch Location
Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, USA
Payload mass
~678 kg (~1,500 kg)
Where did the satellite go?
Trans Lunar Injection (Initial Orbit: 249 x 245 km orbit at 29.50 degrees)
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Yes
Where did the first stage land?
~640 km downrange on Just Read the Instructions

Tug: Kurt J Crosby; Support: Bob

Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
The fairing halves were recovered from the water ~730 km downrange by Bob
Were these fairings new?
No, both fairings are flight proven
This was the:
– 168th Falcon 9 launch
– 106th Falcon 9 flight with a flight proven booster
– 110th re-flight of a booster
– 32nd re-flight of a booster in 2022
– 134th booster landing
– 60th consecutive landing (a record)
– 34rd launch for SpaceX in 2022 (a record)
– 93rd SpaceX launch from SLC-40
– 97th orbital launch attempt of 2022
(94th successful)
Where to watch
Official Replay

How Did It Go?

SpaceX successfully launched the Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbit (KPLO) to lunar orbit atop a Falcon 9 Block 5. Lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40, at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida, the 678 kg spacecraft will explore lunar geography.

What Is KPLO?

The KPLO spacecraft was built and developed by the South Korean Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and is Korea’s first lunar spacecraft. With the goal of surveying lunar resources (such as ice, helium, uranium, silicon, aluminum, etc) as well as demonstrating Korea’s ability to build and operate a lunar spacecraft, KPLO is the first phase of their larger Korean Lunar Exploration Program (KLEP) plans.

Based on the hopeful success of KPLO, the second phase of KLEP comprises a lunar orbiter, lunar lander, and lunar rover. This mission is expected to launch in 2025.

An artist’s rendering of the KPLO spacecraft (Credit: Ministry of Science)

KLPO Spacecraft

Roughly a month after launch, the KLPO satellite will reach a 100 km circular polar low-lunar orbit via the ballistic lunar capture method. To reach lunar orbit, the spacecraft has four main 30 N thrusters and four 5 N thrusters for attitude control. To remain in contact with the Earth, KLPO has S-band and X-band transponders that are powered by a 760-watt set of solar panels.

The satellite has six instruments:

Lunar Terrain Imager (LUTI). As the name implies, this instrument will be used to image the lunar surface and scout for future landing sites. The instrument has a ~5-meter resolution.

Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera (PolCam). Polarimetry is used to analyze the composition of regolith from a distance. The PolCam will be used to investigate the entirety of the lunar regolith, with the exception of that on the poles.

KPLO Magnetometer (KMAG). As the name implies, this instrument will be used to measure the strength of the lunar poles.

KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer (KGRS). Using spectroscopy–the process of looking at emission gaps–this instrument will research the composition of the lunar regolith.

Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment (DTNPL)

NASA ShadowCam. NASA’s ShadowCam will search the lunar surface for evidence of large ice deposits.

Falcon 9 Block 5?

The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and, when in payload configuration, a pair of reusable fairing halves.

First Stage

The Falcon 9 first stage contains 9 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon 9 first stage is able to lose an engine right off the pad, or up to two later in the flight, and be able to place the payload into orbit successfully.

The Merlin engines are ignited by triethylaluminum and triethylborane (TEA-TEB), which instantly burst into flames when mixed in the presence of oxygen. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon 9 first stage is able to propulsively land, three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.

Second Stage

The Falcon 9 second stage is the only expendable part of the Falcon 9. It contains a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon 9 to put payloads in several different orbits.

For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of composite-overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.

Falcon 9 Block 5, flight
Falcon 9 Block 5 launching on the Starlink Group 4-25 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Booster

The booster that supported the KPLO mission was B1052, which had supported five previous flights. Hence, its designation for this mission was B1052-6; this changed to B1052-7 upon successful landing.

B1052’s missions Launch Date (UTC) Turn Around Time (Days)
Arabsat-6A April 11, 2019 22:35 N/A
STP-2 June 25, 2019 06:30 74.33
CSG-2 January 31, 2022 23:11 951.70
Starlink Group 4-10 March 9, 2022 13:45 36.61
Starlink Group 4-18 May 18, 2022 10:59 69.88
KPLO August 4, 2022 23:08 78.51

Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 conducted two burns. These burns softly touched down the booster on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship Just Read the Instructions.

falcon 9 booster, landing, drone ship
Falcon 9 landing on Of Course I Still Love You after launching Bob and Doug (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 Fairings

The Falcon 9’s fairing consists of two dissimilar reusable halves. The first half (the half that faces away from the transport erector) is called the active half, and houses the pneumatics for the separation system. The other fairing half is called the passive half. As the name implies, this half plays a purely passive role in the fairing separation process, as it relies on the pneumatics from the active half.

Both fairing halves are equipped with cold gas thrusters and a parafoil which are used to softly touch down the fairing half in the ocean. SpaceX used to attempt to catch the fairing halves, however, at the end of 2020 this program was canceled due to safety risks and a low success rate. On KPLO, SpaceX attempted to recover the fairing halves from the water with their recovery vessel Doug.

In 2021, SpaceX started flying a new version of the Falcon 9 fairing. The new “upgraded” version has vents only at the top of each fairing half, by the gap between the halves, whereas the old version had vents placed spread equidistantly around the base of the fairing. Moving the vents decreases the chance of water getting into the fairing, making the chance of a successful scoop significantly higher.

All times are approximate

HR/MIN/SEC EVENT
00:38:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
00:35:00 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading underway
00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff

KPLO Launch, Landing, and Deployment

All times are approximate

HR/MIN/SEC EVENT
00:01:12 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:31 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:42 2nd stage engine starts (SES-1)
00:03:15 Fairing deployment
00:06:49 1st stage entry burn begins
00:07:19 1st stage entry burn complete
00:07:58 1st stage landing burn begins
00:08:33 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:09:01 1st stage landing
00:34:15 2nd stage engine restarts (SES-2)
00:35:15 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
00:40:16 KPLO deploys

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Watch Perseids meteor shower this weekend: Weather Network – CTV News

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While the peak of the Perseids meteor shower — one of the brightest of the year — may be next week, now may be the best time to see the astronomical event, according to The Weather Network.

Considered one of the strongest and brightest meteor showers, the Perseids occur from mid-July to late August as the Earth passes through a trail of icy debris left behind by a comet, Weather Network meteorologist Scott Sutherland wrote on Friday.

While the meteor shower is expected to peak on the nights of Aug. 12 and 13, Sutherland says light from the nearly full moon on Aug. 11 “will still wash out all but the brightest meteors.”

“Instead, go out this weekend to see the meteor shower because the view will get worse and worse throughout next week due to the moon,” he said.

The meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Perseus that the meteors appear to be falling from.

The Canadian Space Agency says as many as 50 to 80 meteors can pass by the night sky per hour during the peak of the Perseids.

But right now, Sutherland says the meteor shower can produce between 20 and 30 meteors per hour.

He says, along with the full moon, artificial light from streetlights, signs and vehicles can also make it difficult to see the meteor shower.

The moon will set later each night, meaning viewers will have to stay up later and later to catch the moonless points of the evening as each day passes, Sutherland says.

He advises stargazers to get away from nearby cities to find the best viewing spots away from any light pollution.

How well you can see the meteor shower also will depend on whether the skies are clear, he says, adding viewers should give themselves at least 20 minutes for their eyes to adjust to the dark for the best meteor viewing. It also helps to avoid looking at your phone.

“Once you’ve verified you have clear skies and limited your exposure to light pollution, this is where being patient comes in,” Sutherland said.

“Note that this — more than anything else — is likely the one thing that causes the most disappointment when it comes to watching a meteor shower.”

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