It worked. It actually worked! The world has been watching since Christmas Day to see it the 300 single-point failure items, 50 parts and 178 release mechanisms of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope would work—and whether its incredibly complicated unfolding would go as planned.
After some incredible work from its engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland everything went smoothly and Webb is now on its way to its parking orbit as a fully assembled space telescope.
Webb’s second side panel of its mirror was extended and latched into position at 1:17 p.m. EST on January 8, 2022, with the team at at Mission Operations Center ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore thus declaring the Webb telescope deployed!
What’s more it seems that the launch itself went so spectacularly well that engineers were able to save more fuel than planned. The upshot is that Webb’s planned 10-year mission could be as much as doubled.
Since Webb will be able to observe continuously—as opposed to the in-orbit Hubble Space Telescope—that’s an incredible and unexpected boost for our long-term knowledge of the cosmos.
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on with Webb—the most ambitious and complex space science telescope ever constructed—and what happens next:
What just happened?
Webb’s thrilling and flawless deployment has seen its five-layer sunshield lowered, unfurled and tensioned. The sunshield has five super-thin layers, dozens of hinges, motors, gears, springs and a whopping 1,312 feet of cables. The 107 myriad release mechanisms need to fire on cue to erase the five layers.
Deployment has also involved the primary golden segmented mirror being raised, its secondary mirror being extended and the primary mirror wings open. The six-ton Webb has a primary mirror with a diameter of 21 feet/6.5 meters. It’s made from beryllium and made-up of 18 hexagonal segments, each one covered in a super-thin layer of gold that’s perfect for reflecting infrared light.
“Today’s been a remarkable day … we have 5 and a half months of commissioning left but these last two weeks have truly been amazing,” said Bill Ochs, Webb Project Manager, NASA Goddard. “Thousands of people have worked on JWST and I cannot thank all of them enough.”
Where is Webb going and when will it get there?
It will get there on January 23, 2022.
How does it now have fuel for 20 years?
It appears that the perfect launch of the Ariane 5 rocket on Christmas Day may be crucial in giving Webb a longer life than expected. Once it’s at L2 it will be in a near-perfect alignment with the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. The only fuel it will need will be for the occasional correction to keep it in that orbit. That fuel is limited because everything is limited when you launch such a heavy payload into space.
Webb was initially said to have a 10 year lifespan. That may now have doubled. It appears that Webb may have “quite a bit of fuel margin … roughly speaking, it’s around 20 years of propellant,” said Mike Menzel, NASA Webb Mission Systems Engineer during a press briefing. It’s seemingly a result of “the efficiency or the accuracy with which Ariane put us on orbit and our accuracy and effectiveness in implementing our mid-course corrections.”
What happens now?
“On January 23 we’ll arrive at our LG insertion location but while we get there we’ll begin phasing the mirror—taking its 18 mirror segments and aligning them so they behave as one monolith,” said John Durning, Webb Deputy Project Manager at NASA Goddard. “We’ll start turning on the instruments in the next week or so, so we can cool them down and calibrate them and get them ready for “first light.”
The mirror deployment will begin on Tuesday, January 11 and is expected to last for two weeks, though the mirror won’t be fully aligned until April 24, 2022. It’s going to be a painstaking task. “Starting on Tuesday we’ll deploy the mirrors it’s then a 10-12 day process to get all of the mirrors forward by roughly half an inch so we can do the detailed optical alignment,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb Optical Telescope Element Manager, NASA Goddard. “There’s then a three month process to align the mirrors starting with the first light on all 18 segments. Roughly four months into to the mission the whole telescope will be aligned.”
In total it will take five-and-a-half months to switch on and test Webb’s instruments. Webb will then begin its routine science observations and deliver its first images. We could get to see the first test images at the end of March or early April.
Another crucial part will be for Webb needs to cool down. Big time. Its four instruments all need to be cooled-down to -370° F and then calibrated and aligned.
What will Webb do?
Webb will study the Solar System, directly image exoplanets, photograph the first galaxies, and explore the mysteries of the origins of the Universe. Its ability to capture infrared light means it will be able to “see” the cosmos as it was when just a few hundred million years old, capturing images of the first-ever stars and galaxies.
Webb is a partnership between NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
Explainer-Scientists struggle to monitor Tonga volcano after massive eruption
Scientists are struggling to monitor an active volcano that erupted off the South Pacific island of Tonga at the weekend, after the explosion destroyed its sea-level crater and drowned its mass, obscuring it from satellites.
The eruption of Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean and was heard some 2,300 kms (1,430 miles) away in New Zealand.
“The concern at the moment is how little information we have and that’s scary,” said Janine Krippner, a New Zealand-based volcanologist with the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program.
“When the vent is below water, nothing can tell us what will happen next.”
Krippner said on-site instruments were likely destroyed in the eruption and the volcanology community was pooling together the best available data and expertise to review the explosion and predict anticipated future activity.
Saturday’s eruption was so powerful that space satellites captured not only huge clouds of ash but also an atmospheric shockwave that radiated out from the volcano at close to the speed of sound.
Photographs and videos showed grey ash clouds billowing over the South Pacific and metre-high waves surging onto the coast of Tonga.
There are no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/impact-assessment-aid-efforts-underway-world-responds-tonga-tsunami-2022-01-16 yet but internet and telephone communications are extremely limited and outlying coastal areas remain cut off.
Experts said the volcano, which last erupted in 2014, had been puffing away for about a month before rising magma, superheated to around 1,000 degrees Celsius, met with 20-degree seawater on Saturday, causing an instantaneous and massive explosion.
The unusual “astounding” speed and force of the eruption indicated a greater force at play than simply magma meeting water, scientists said.
As the superheated magma rose quickly and met the cool seawater, so did a huge volume of volcanic gases, intensifying the explosion, said Raymond Cas, a professor of volcanology at Australia’s Monash University.
Some volcanologists are likening the eruption to the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, which killed around 800 people.
The Tonga Geological Services agency, which was monitoring the volcano, was unreachable on Monday. Most communications to Tonga have been cut after the main undersea communications cable lost power.
American meteorologist, Chris Vagasky, studied lightning around the volcano and found it increasing to about 30,000 strikes in the days leading up to the eruption. On the day of the eruption, he detected 400,000 lightning events in just three hours, which comes down to 100 lightning events per second.
That compared with 8,000 strikes per hour during the Anak Krakatau eruption in 2018, caused part of the crater to collapse into the Sunda Strait and send a tsunami crashing into western Java, which killed hundreds of people.
Cas said it is difficult to predict follow-up activity and that the volcano’s vents could continue to release gases and other material for weeks or months.
“It wouldn’t be unusual to get a few more eruptions, though maybe not as big as Saturday,” he said. “Once the volcano is de-gassed, it will settle down.”
(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Jane Wardell and Michael Perry)
Astronauts at Risk of 'Space Anemia' | Health | thesuburban.com – The Suburban Newspaper
MONDAY, Jan. 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Astronauts can develop a condition called space anemia because their bodies destroy more red blood cells than normal when in space, a groundbreaking study shows.
Assessments of 14 astronauts over six months between space missions found that 54% more blood cells were destroyed while they were in space than when they were on Earth, according to findings published Jan. 14 in Nature Medicine.
“Space anemia has consistently been reported when astronauts returned to Earth since the first space missions, but we didn’t know why,” said lead author Dr. Guy Trudel of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. “Our study shows that upon arriving in space, more red blood cells are destroyed, and this continues for the entire duration of the astronauts’ mission.”
Before this study, it was believed that space anemia was due to fluid shifting into an astronaut’s upper body upon arrival in space.
Astronauts lose 10% of the liquid in their blood vessels this way. It was thought that their bodies rapidly destroyed 10% of their red blood cells to restore the balance, and that red blood cell control returned to normal after 10 days in space.
But this study found that red blood cell destruction is a primary effect of being in space, not just the result of fluid shifts.
On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second. But the astronauts in this study — both male and female — destroyed 3 million every second while in space.
Five of 13 astronauts in the study were clinically anemic when they returned to Earth. One of the 14 did not have blood drawn on landing.
The researchers also found that space anemia is reversible, with red blood cells levels progressively returning to normal three to four months after astronauts returned from space.
“Thankfully, having fewer red blood cells in space isn’t a problem when your body is weightless,” Trudel said in a hospital news release. “But when landing on Earth and potentially on other planets or moons, anemia affecting your energy, endurance and strength can threaten mission objectives. The effects of anemia are only felt once you land, and must deal with gravity again.”
The findings could be prove useful for patients who develop anemia after long illnesses that require bed rest. Bed rest has been shown to cause anemia, but how it does so is unknown.
The mechanism may be like what occurs in space anemia, according to Trudel, who plans to investigate this theory in future research.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on anemia.
SOURCE: The Ottawa Hospital, news release, Jan. 14, 2022
Western scientists study meteorite made famous after crashing into B.C. woman's bedroom – CBC.ca
A meteorite that ripped through a roof and landed inches from a B.C. woman’s head is believed to be around 470 million years old, Western researchers say.
Ruth Hamilton of Golden, B.C. was woken abruptly on the night of Oct. 3, when the small charcoal grey rock the size of a melon broke through her ceiling and landed between her floral pillowcases.
After coming to terms with the surreal experience, she lent the rock to Western University’s physics and astronomy department in London, Ont., where researchers are working to map its orbital journey around the sun before it arrived in Hamilton’s bedroom.
“It was very exciting getting it because any time you see a new meteorite, it’s kind of like Christmas Day,” said adjunct professor Phil McCausland, who leads the investigation.
Upon inspection, McCausland found that the meteorite is an L chondrite, one of the most commonly found types of meteorites to fall on Earth.
What’s not so common about Hamilton’s meteorite is where it originates in the sky.
“This rock has a very interesting and unusual orbit,” said McCausland.
“Chondrite meteors are thought with good evidence to have come from the early solar system, but they went through a major asteroid breakup event. So there is a big body in the asteroid belt that broke up about 470 million years ago,” he said.
“From then, a bunch of material has been delivered around the inner solar system, some of it arriving on Earth. And this, prospectively, is one of those pieces.”
McCausland said so far, the orbits of only a handful of L chondrite meteors are known.
“What happens out in space is that the cosmic rays interact with the rock and end up irradiating it, so that it has somewhat activated isotopes that decay over time,” he said. “We can detect what the decay products are that are coming out of this, the gamma rays and so on. And that gives us a handle on the orbital history of the rock.”
Afternoon Drive9:04Meteorite analysis at Western University
He added that researchers are looking to dash cam and surveillance footage, as well as local photographers who captured the fireball event, to reconstruct the rock’s flight path.
Under Canadian law, the meteor is owned by its finder – in this case, Ruth Hamilton. It’s hers to sell, donate, or keep.
Meanwhile, McCausland will ensure a sample is registered with the Meteoritical Society, where it will be available for future scientific research.
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