Red, purple and green streamers of the aurora borealis dazzled viewers in North America on Friday and were seen much farther south than normal, with people in California, Arizona and Texas reporting they could see it, according to AccuWeather, Inc. Typically, the spectacular display is only visible in northern locales like Alaska, North Dakota, Canada and Iceland.
James Webb Space Telescope begins lining up its golden mirrors – Space.com
Just weeks after the excitement of launch, the James Webb Space Telescope is already seeking focus in space.
Engineers are beginning alignment procedures for the recently unfolded 18-segment massive golden mirror. The work will eventually get these individual reflectors working as a single focusing device, NASA officials wrote in a blog update posted on Wednesday (Jan. 12).
The procedure began with engineers commanding 132 actuators that will move and position the primary mirror segments and the secondary mirror, just to make sure everything was responded as expected. The team also ensured the actuators are working to guide Webb’s fine steering mirror, which will be used during the image stabilization process.
Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope mission
In photos: The Christmas launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
The observatory team will spend about 10 days working to move the mirror segments out of their launch alignments, with more precise work continuing beyond that time.
The goal is to get all of Webb’s pieces working as a single observatory in space, which will be essential for the telescope’s ambitious agenda of telling us more about the early universe and the life history of various objects that are a part of it.
NASA estimates that all told, the alignment will take about three months, which should bring this work into mid-April as long as everything runs to schedule. Webb launched on Dec. 25 and may have enough fuel for 20 years of science thanks to the precision of the launch, but that all depends on the mirrors working properly.
“Ground teams have now begun instructing the primary mirror segments and secondary mirror to move from their stowed-for-launch configuration, off of snubbers that kept them snug and safe from rattling from vibration,” NASA said. “These movements will take at least ten days, after which engineers can begin the three-month process of aligning the segments to perform as a single mirror.”
Webb is still en route to a “parking spot” called Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2 (L2) about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from our planet. It will make an engine firing on Jan. 23 to glide toward that zone.
The next-generation telescope must complete about six months of commissioning activities, then will embark on a suite of early science programs this summer, spanning everything from studying exoplanets to probing the beginning of the universe.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Solar Storm That Caused Dazzling Auroral Display Could Linger
A coronal mass ejection, an explosion of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere, hit Earth early Friday with more force than initially forecast. These events can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field causing auroral displays, as well as disrupting satellites, communication and electric grids.
Read more: A Swedish Resort Lets You See the Northern Lights From Your Room
The US Space Weather Prediction Center had originally expected a G2 level storm Friday on its five-step scale, the event measured in at G4, one of the strongest triggered on Earth since 2017.
The impacts from the coronal mass ejection have trailed off, but energy coming from what scientists call a “coronal hole” will continue at least through Saturday and that could mean the aurora could be seen by viewers across Europe, Asia and North America through Sunday, the UK Met Office said on its website.
There are currently eight sunspot clusters visible on the side of the sun facing Earth, however another coronal mass ejection blasting toward us isn’t forecast, the UK Met Office said.
An airplane-sized asteroid will pass between the Earth and moon’s orbits Saturday
An asteroid dubbed “city killer” for its size will pass harmlessly between the moon and the Earth Saturday evening.
The asteroid 2023 DZ2 will pass at a distance of over 100,000 miles, less than half the distance between the Earth and the moon. It’s about 160 feet long — about the size of an airliner. An asteroid that size could cause significant damage if it hit a populated area, hence its nickname.
“While close approaches are a regular occurrence, one by an asteroid of this size (140-310 ft) happens only about once per decade, providing a unique opportunity for science,” NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted.
Astronomers from the International Asteroid Warning Network, established about 10 years ago to coordinate international responses to potential near-Earth object impact threats, will be monitoring and learning from this asteroid.
NASA Asteroid Watch called the opportunity “good practice” in case “a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered.”
Near-Earth objects are asteroids or comets that pass close to the Earth’s orbit, and they generally come from objects that are affected by other planets’ gravity, moving them into orbits that push them close to Earth, according to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The European Space Agency maintains a risk list of 1,460 objects, which catalogs every object with a non-zero chance of hitting Earth over the next 100 years. Asteroid 2023 DZ2, which is in orbit around the sun, is not on the risk list.
Large asteroid to zoom between Earth and Moon
On Saturday, the 2023DZ2 will come within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
A large asteroid will safely zoom between Earth and the Moon on Saturday, a once-in-a-decade event that will be used as a training exercise for planetary defence efforts, according to the European Space Agency.
The asteroid, named 2023 DZ2, is estimated to be 40 to 70 metres (130 to 230 feet) wide, roughly the size of the Parthenon, and big enough to wipe out a large city if it hit our planet.
At 19:49 GMT on Saturday, it will come within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, said Richard Moissl, the head of the ESA’s planetary defence office.
Though that is “very close”, there is nothing to worry about, he told AFP news agency.
Small asteroids fly past every day, but one of this size coming so close to Earth only happens about once every 10 years, he added.
The asteroid will pass 175,000km (109,000 miles) from Earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,400 miles per hour). The Moon is roughly 385,000km (239,228 miles) away.
An observatory in La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, first spotted the asteroid on February 27.
Last week, the United Nations-endorsed International Asteroid Warning Network decided it would take advantage of the close look, carrying out a “rapid characterisation” of 2023 DZ2, Moissl said. That means astronomers around the world will analyse the asteroid with a range of instruments such as spectrometers and radars.
The goal is to find out just how much we can learn about such an asteroid in only a week, Moissl said. It will also serve as training for how the network “would react to a threat” possibly heading our way in the future, he added.
The asteroid will again swing past Earth in 2026, but poses no threat of impact for at least the next 100 years – which is how far out its trajectory has been calculated.
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