Space Thread

spaminator

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NASA says asteroid will make close approach to Earth within six days
Author of the article:postmedia News
Publishing date:May 11, 2022 • 14 hours ago • < 1 minute read • Join the conversation
NASA says a large asteroid will enter Earth's orbit later this month.
NASA says a large asteroid will enter Earth's orbit later this month. PHOTO BY FILES /Getty Images
A huge asteroid is going to make a close approach to earth within the next week, according to NASA.

The giant rock, which is bigger than the Empire State Building, will come as close as 5.6 million kilometres away from Earth.

The asteroid is known as 388945 (2008 TZ3)and is expected to make its closest approach on Sunday, according to the New York Post.

The same asteroid passed the earth back in May 2020, and came much closer to the Earth — just 2.7 million kilometres away.

About every two years it comes by, although this will be the closest it will be until May 2163, according to the report.
 

spaminator

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Scientists unveil image of 'gentle giant' black hole at Milky Way's centre
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:May 12, 2022 • 20 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
This is the first image of Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
This is the first image of Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. PHOTO BY EHT COLLABORATION/NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION /Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Scientists on Thursday provided the first look at what they called the “gentle giant” lurking at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, unveiling an image of a supermassive black hole that devours any matter wandering within its gargantuan gravitational pull.


The black hole – called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* – is only the second one ever to be imaged. The feat was accomplished by the same Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) international collaboration that in 2019 unveiled the first-ever photo of a black hole – that one residing at the heart of a different galaxy.

University of Arizona astronomer Feryal Ozel, at a news conference in Washington, hailed “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the centre of our galaxy,” showing a glowing ring of red, yellow and white surrounding a darker centre.

Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius “A” star) possesses 4 million times the mass of our sun and is located about 26,000 light-years – the distance light travels in a year, 9.5 trillion km – from Earth.


Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape, making viewing them extremely challenging. A black hole’s event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything – stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of electromagnetic radiation – gets dragged into oblivion.

Project scientists have looked for a ring of light – super-heated disrupted matter and radiation circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon – around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole. This is known as the black hole’s shadow or silhouette.

“This image shows a bright ring surrounding the darkness, the telltale sign of the shadow of the black hole,” Ozel said. “Light escaping from the hot gas swirling around the black hole appears to us as the bright ring. Light that is too close to the black hole – close enough to be swallowed by it – eventually crosses its horizon and leaves behind just a dark void in the centre.”


“It turned out to be a gentler, more cooperative black hole than we had hoped for in the past decade of simulating its environment,” Ozel added. “We love our black hole.”

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy that contains at least 100 billion stars. Viewed from above or below it resembles a spinning pinwheel, with our sun situated on one of the spiral arms and Sagittarius A* located at the centre.

‘RAVENOUS BUT INEFFICIENT’
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astrophysicist Michael Johnson called the black hole “ravenous but inefficient,” eating relatively little matter.

The image released in 2019 showed the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called Messier 87, or M87. The M87 black hole is far more distant and massive than Sagittarius A*, situated about 54 million light-years from Earth with a mass 6.5 billion times that of our sun.


The researchers said that Sagittarius A*, despite being much closer to our solar system than M87, was harder to image.

The diameter of Sagittarius A* is about 17 times that of the sun, meaning it would sit within the innermost planet Mercury’s solar orbit. In contrast, M87’s diameter would encompass the entirety of our solar system.

“Sagittarius A* is over a thousand times less massive than the black hole at M87, but since it is in our own galaxy it is much closer and should appear just slightly larger on the sky,” said radio astronomer Lindy Blackburn, an EHT data scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“However the smaller physical size of Sgr A* also means that everything changes about a thousand times faster for Sgr A* than M87. We must also peer through the messy disk of our own galaxy to view Sgr A*, which blurs and distorts the image,” Blackburn added.


The Event Horizon Telescope is a global network of observatories working collectively to observe radio sources associated with black holes. The project was begun in 2012.

There are different categories of black holes. The smallest are so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of massive individual stars at the ends of their life cycles. There also are intermediate-mass black holes, a step up in mass. And finally there are the supermassive black holes that inhabit the centre of most galaxies. These are thought to arise relatively soon after their galaxies are formed, devouring enormous amounts of material to achieve colossal size.

Thursday’s announcement was made in simultaneous news conferences in the United States, Germany, China, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Taiwan.
1652454276274.png
 
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spaminator

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Scientists grow plants from moon soil
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:May 12, 2022 • 20 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
The plant species Arabidopsis thaliana is seen sprouting at a University of Florida laboratory in a small amount of lunar regolith – soil from the moon – May 5, 2021.
The plant species Arabidopsis thaliana is seen sprouting at a University of Florida laboratory in a small amount of lunar regolith – soil from the moon – May 5, 2021. PHOTO BY TYLER JONES, UF/IFAS LUNAR PLANTS RESEARCH DOCUMENTATION /Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Scientists for the first time have grown seeds in soil from the moon – samples retrieved during NASA missions in 1969 and 1972 – in an achievement that heralds the promise of using earthly plants to support human outposts on other worlds.


Researchers said on Thursday they planted seeds of a diminutive flowering weed called Arabidopsis thaliana in 12 small thimble-sized containers each bearing a gram of moon soil, more properly called lunar regolith, and watched as they sprouted and grew. Lunar regolith, with its sharp particles and lack of organic material, differs greatly from Earth soil, so it was unknown whether seeds would germinate.

“When we first saw that abundance of green sprouts cast over all of the samples, it took our breath away,” said horticultural sciences professor Anna-Lisa Paul, director of the University of Florida Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and co-leader of the study published in the journal Communications Biology.


“Plants can grow in lunar regolith. That one simple statement is huge and opens the door to future exploration using resources in place on the moon and likely Mars,” Paul said.

University of Florida researchers Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl work with tiny samples of lunar soil in which scientists grew seeds of the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana in this undated handout photo.
University of Florida researchers Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl work with tiny samples of lunar soil in which scientists grew seeds of the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana in this undated handout photo. PHOTO BY TYLER JONES, UF/IFAS /Handout via REUTERS
Every seed germinated and there were no outward differences at the early stages of growth between those sown in the regolith – composed mostly of crushed basalt rocks – and seeds sown for comparative reasons in volcanic ash from Earth with similar mineral composition and particle size.

The regolith seeds, perhaps unsurprisingly, did less well than the comparison plants. They were slower to grow and generally littler, had more stunted roots and were more apt to exhibit stress-related traits such as smaller leaves and deep reddish black colouration not typical of healthy growth. They also showed gene activity indicative of stress, similar to plant reactions to salt, metal and oxidation.


“Even though plants could grow in the regolith, they had to work hard metabolically to do so,” Paul said.

To the researchers, the fact that they grew at all was remarkable. Study co-leader Rob Ferl, a University of Florida assistant vice president for research, said he felt “joy at watching life do something that had never been done before.”

“Seeing plants grow is an achievement in that it says that we can go to the moon and grow our food, clean our air and recycle our water using plants the way we use them here on Earth. It is also a revelation in that it says that terrestrial life is not limited to Earth,” Ferl added.

Arabidopsis, also called thale cress, is widely used in scientific research, including previous experiments in orbit, owing to its speedy life cycle and a deep understanding of its genetics.


NASA made available 12 grams – just a few teaspoons — of regolith collected during the Apollo 11, Apollo 12 and Apollo 17 missions. The researchers planted three or four seeds in a dozen containers moistened with a nutrient solution, then placed them in a laboratory at about 23 degree Celcius under LED lights giving off a pink hue.

The seeds sprouted within three days. After about a week of growth, the researchers removed all but one plant from each container. The one was left to grow until it was 20 days old, with its leaves then harvested to assess gene activity.

The researchers also determined that regolith that had experienced longer exposure to cosmic rays and solar wind on the lunar surface was less hospitable to growth.

Earth plants could help people establish outposts in places like the moon and Mars, as depicted in the 2015 film “The Martian” when an astronaut grew potatoes on the Red Planet. NASA’s Artemis program envisions people returning to the moon’s surface in the coming years.

“Plants are deeply embedded in the science of space exploration because of their life-support role, especially when we consider leaving the Earth for extended periods of time,” Ferl said.
SPACE-EXPLORATION_PLANTS-1-scaled[1].jpg1652454845275.png
 

spaminator

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Crumbling comet could create meteor shower May 30
Author of the article:postmedia News
Publishing date:May 25, 2022 • 15 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation

A crumbling comet could create a meteor shower on May 30.


The ‘tau Herculids’ meteor display might be one of the most dramatic observed in over two decades, according to Space.com.

Meteor showers occur when dust or particles from asteroids or comets enter Earth’s atmosphere at a very high speed, the U.K. Sun explained.

This one is expected to be the product of a comet named 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, also known as SW3.

SW3 was first discovered in 1930 but did not reappear again until the 1970s, Republic World reported.

In 1995, astronomers noticed that the comet’s nucleus split into four smaller chunks, according to CNET.

It has continued to disintegrate more in the ensuing years.

The display is expected to be very visible in the Northern Hemisphere as it is occurring on a Moon-less night.

A consensus of experts predicts that the shower will be visible starting from 1 a.m. EST on May 31.

It is suggested viewers will want to be outside at least an hour before this so your eyes have a chance to adjust to the dark.

“The southwestern USA and Mexico are favored locations as the radiant, the area of the sky where these meteors come from, will be located highest in a dark sky,” Robert Lunsford wrote for AMS.

“The outburst may be seen from southeastern Canada and the remainder of the (eastern) USA, but at a lower altitude.”
 

Blackleaf

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Scientists unveil image of 'gentle giant' black hole at Milky Way's centre
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:May 12, 2022 • 20 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
This is the first image of Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
This is the first image of Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. PHOTO BY EHT COLLABORATION/NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION /Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Scientists on Thursday provided the first look at what they called the “gentle giant” lurking at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, unveiling an image of a supermassive black hole that devours any matter wandering within its gargantuan gravitational pull.


The black hole – called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* – is only the second one ever to be imaged. The feat was accomplished by the same Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) international collaboration that in 2019 unveiled the first-ever photo of a black hole – that one residing at the heart of a different galaxy.

University of Arizona astronomer Feryal Ozel, at a news conference in Washington, hailed “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the centre of our galaxy,” showing a glowing ring of red, yellow and white surrounding a darker centre.

Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius “A” star) possesses 4 million times the mass of our sun and is located about 26,000 light-years – the distance light travels in a year, 9.5 trillion km – from Earth.


Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape, making viewing them extremely challenging. A black hole’s event horizon is the point of no return beyond which anything – stars, planets, gas, dust and all forms of electromagnetic radiation – gets dragged into oblivion.

Project scientists have looked for a ring of light – super-heated disrupted matter and radiation circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon – around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole. This is known as the black hole’s shadow or silhouette.

“This image shows a bright ring surrounding the darkness, the telltale sign of the shadow of the black hole,” Ozel said. “Light escaping from the hot gas swirling around the black hole appears to us as the bright ring. Light that is too close to the black hole – close enough to be swallowed by it – eventually crosses its horizon and leaves behind just a dark void in the centre.”


“It turned out to be a gentler, more cooperative black hole than we had hoped for in the past decade of simulating its environment,” Ozel added. “We love our black hole.”

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy that contains at least 100 billion stars. Viewed from above or below it resembles a spinning pinwheel, with our sun situated on one of the spiral arms and Sagittarius A* located at the centre.

‘RAVENOUS BUT INEFFICIENT’
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astrophysicist Michael Johnson called the black hole “ravenous but inefficient,” eating relatively little matter.

The image released in 2019 showed the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called Messier 87, or M87. The M87 black hole is far more distant and massive than Sagittarius A*, situated about 54 million light-years from Earth with a mass 6.5 billion times that of our sun.


The researchers said that Sagittarius A*, despite being much closer to our solar system than M87, was harder to image.

The diameter of Sagittarius A* is about 17 times that of the sun, meaning it would sit within the innermost planet Mercury’s solar orbit. In contrast, M87’s diameter would encompass the entirety of our solar system.

“Sagittarius A* is over a thousand times less massive than the black hole at M87, but since it is in our own galaxy it is much closer and should appear just slightly larger on the sky,” said radio astronomer Lindy Blackburn, an EHT data scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

“However the smaller physical size of Sgr A* also means that everything changes about a thousand times faster for Sgr A* than M87. We must also peer through the messy disk of our own galaxy to view Sgr A*, which blurs and distorts the image,” Blackburn added.


The Event Horizon Telescope is a global network of observatories working collectively to observe radio sources associated with black holes. The project was begun in 2012.

There are different categories of black holes. The smallest are so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of massive individual stars at the ends of their life cycles. There also are intermediate-mass black holes, a step up in mass. And finally there are the supermassive black holes that inhabit the centre of most galaxies. These are thought to arise relatively soon after their galaxies are formed, devouring enormous amounts of material to achieve colossal size.

Thursday’s announcement was made in simultaneous news conferences in the United States, Germany, China, Mexico, Chile, Japan and Taiwan.
View attachment 13712

If the Sun turned into a black hole - which it won't - then all the planets would continue orbiting it.
 

spaminator

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Five planets are aligned in night sky for first time in 18 years
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel, The Washington Post
Publishing date:Jun 23, 2022 • 22 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation

The best planetary party in 18 years has begun. Like a 17th-century astronomer, you can join it by just looking up.


Throughout June, sky watchers can see Earth’s five closest planetary neighbors in a row with their naked eyes, but the best opportunity to see the spectacle will occur on June 24. As a bonus, Earth’s crescent moon will also position itself between Venus and Mars and act as a stand-in for Earth. Sky watchers can see a spectacular view of the six celestial bodies in order stretching in a diagonal starting low in the east: Mercury, Venus, Earth’s moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The distance between Mercury and Saturn will be 107 degrees, according to Sky & Telescope.

“Planets are often getting closer to each other and farther away from each other, but this is just a particularly fun order. It’s just coincidence,” said Michelle Thaller, an astronomer at NASA. “It’s just kind of this really sort of fun tour of the solar system that you can take for free.”


When celestial bodies appear close together from Earth, astronomers call the spectacle a conjunction. Conjunctions of a few planets are fairly common and occur every few years or so, but all five planets line up only once every two decades. The last time the five planets aligned was in December 2004, and the next alignment will not occur until 2040. Because of different orbits and tilts, all eight planets will never be perfectly aligned.



How to watch

While a telescope or binoculars can aid skygazing, the planets will shine brighter than surrounding stars and should be easy to spot with the naked eye. Just head out about 30 minutes before sunrise and hope for a clear horizon. Darker skies are better, but the planets will stand out even over city lights.


“Even in the city, these are bright enough – you should be able to see. Go up on a friend’s balcony or on the rooftop. As long as you can get a nice clear horizon and clear skies, you can see it,” Thaller said.

Mercury is the hardest of the planets to see because of its proximity to the sun. The small dim planet is usually lost in the glare of the sunrise or sunset, but the planet will travel progressively farther from the sun as the month goes on. On June 24, Mercury should be much easier to spot and will be up an hour before the sun rises. Thaller, who has seen Mercury only about half a dozen times in her lifetime, experienced her best showing near Dulles International Airport.

Thaller said the rare planetary alignment poses no danger to people on Earth, but the gravitational pull from all the planets on one side can be observed ever so slightly through tides on Earth. Because of its distance, Venus exerts the largest tidal force on Earth, although it’s just a small fraction compared with our moon. Thaller said spacecraft also can feel extremely small forces – on the scale of fractions of an atom – as gravity from the planets pull on them.


Sightings of planetary conjunctions have been made for centuries and date to the ancient Greeks observing the movements of these five planets with the unaided eye. (Uranus, Neptune and dwarf planet Pluto were not discovered until after the telescope was invented in the 17th century.) People thought at the time that perhaps they were gods or spirits. The word “planet” is derived from the Greek word “planetes,” which means “wanderer.”

“People noticed that these were different … most of the stars stayed in their positions relative to other stars, but these planets seem to wander around the sky,” Thaller said. “Sometimes they all happened to be lined up in one part of the sky.”
 

spaminator

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Missed supermoon last month? There's another chance to see it
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Publishing date:Jul 11, 2022 • 19 hours ago • < 1 minute read • Join the conversation

If you missed last month’s supermoon, you have another chance.

This month’s full moon is Wednesday. At the same time, the moon’s orbit will bring it closer to Earth than usual. This cosmic combo is called a supermoon.

That can make the moon appear slightly bigger and brighter, weather permitting.

One name for Wednesday’s full moon is the “Buck moon” — a reference to the time of year when new antlers are growing on male deer, or bucks.

The supermoon on June 14 was the “Strawberry moon” because it’s the full moon at strawberry harvest time.


 
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spaminator

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Biden unveils Webb space telescope's first full-colour image of distant galaxies
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Jeff Mason and Steve Gorman
Publishing date:Jul 11, 2022 • 10 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
The first full-colour image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary apparatus designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the universe, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb?s First Deep Field, in a composite made from images at different wavelengths taken with a Near-Infrared Camera and released July 11, 2022.
The first full-colour image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary apparatus designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the universe, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb?s First Deep Field, in a composite made from images at different wavelengths taken with a Near-Infrared Camera and released July 11, 2022. PHOTO BY NASA /via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden, pausing from political pressures to bask in the glow of the cosmos, on Monday released the debut photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – an image of a galaxy cluster revealing the most detailed glimpse of the early universe ever seen.


The White House sneak peek of Webb’s first high-resolution, full-colour image came on the eve of a larger unveiling of photos and spectrographic data that NASA plans to showcase on Tuesday at the Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Maryland.

The $9 billion Webb observatory, the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever launched, was designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the known universe, ushering in a revolutionary era of astronomical discovery.

The image showcased by Biden and NASA chief Bill Nelson showed the 4.6 billion-year-old galaxy cluster named SMACS 0723, whose combined mass acts as a “gravitational lens,” distorting space to greatly magnify the light coming from more distant galaxies behind it.


At least one of the faint, older specs of light appearing in the “background” of the photo – a composite of images of different wavelengths of light – dates back more than 13 billion years, Nelson said. That makes it just 800 million years younger than the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set the expansion of the known universe in motion some 13.8 billion years ago.

“It’s a new window into the history of our universe,” Biden said before the picture was unveiled. “And today we’re going to get a glimpse of the first light to shine through that window: light from other worlds, orbiting stars far beyond our own. It’s astounding to me.”

He was joined at the Old Executive Office Building of the White House complex by Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the U.S. National Space Council.


FROM GRAIN OF SAND IN THE SKY

On Friday, the space agency posted a list of five celestial subjects chosen for its showcase debut of Webb. These include SMACS 0723, a bejewelled-like sliver of the distant cosmos that according to NASA offers “the most detailed view of the early universe to date.” It also constitutes the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant cosmos ever taken.

The thousands of galaxies were captured in a tiny patch of the sky roughly the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone standing on Earth, Nelson said.

Webb was constructed under contract by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp. It was launched to space for NASA and its European and Canadian counterparts on Christmas Day 2021 from French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.


The highly anticipated release of its first imagery follows six months of remotely unfurling Webb’s various components, aligning its mirrors and calibrating instruments.

With Webb now finely tuned and fully focused, scientists will embark on a competitively selected list of missions exploring the evolution of galaxies, the life cycles of stars, the atmospheres of distant exoplanets and the moons of our outer solar system.

Built to view its subjects chiefly in the infrared spectrum, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than its 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which operates mainly at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The much larger light-collecting surface of Webb’s primary mirror – an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – enables it to observe objects at greater distances, thus further back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.


All five of Webb’s introductory targets were previously known to scientists. Among them are two enormous clouds of gas and dust blasted into space by stellar explosions to form incubators for new stars – the Carina Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, each thousands of light years away from Earth.

The collection also includes a galaxy cluster known as Stephan’s Quintet, which was first discovered in 1877 and encompasses several galaxies described by NASA as “locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.”

NASA will also present Webb’s first spectrographic analysis of an exoplanet – one roughly half the mass of Jupiter that lies more than 1,100 light years away – revealing the molecular signatures of filtered light passing through its atmosphere.
1657622633174.png
 

spaminator

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Biden unveils Webb space telescope's first full-colour image of distant galaxies
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Jeff Mason and Steve Gorman
Publishing date:Jul 11, 2022 • 10 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
The first full-colour image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary apparatus designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the universe, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb?s First Deep Field, in a composite made from images at different wavelengths taken with a Near-Infrared Camera and released July 11, 2022.
The first full-colour image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary apparatus designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the universe, shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, known as Webb?s First Deep Field, in a composite made from images at different wavelengths taken with a Near-Infrared Camera and released July 11, 2022. PHOTO BY NASA /via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden, pausing from political pressures to bask in the glow of the cosmos, on Monday released the debut photo from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – an image of a galaxy cluster revealing the most detailed glimpse of the early universe ever seen.


The White House sneak peek of Webb’s first high-resolution, full-colour image came on the eve of a larger unveiling of photos and spectrographic data that NASA plans to showcase on Tuesday at the Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Maryland.

The $9 billion Webb observatory, the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever launched, was designed to peer through the cosmos to the dawn of the known universe, ushering in a revolutionary era of astronomical discovery.

The image showcased by Biden and NASA chief Bill Nelson showed the 4.6 billion-year-old galaxy cluster named SMACS 0723, whose combined mass acts as a “gravitational lens,” distorting space to greatly magnify the light coming from more distant galaxies behind it.


At least one of the faint, older specs of light appearing in the “background” of the photo – a composite of images of different wavelengths of light – dates back more than 13 billion years, Nelson said. That makes it just 800 million years younger than the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set the expansion of the known universe in motion some 13.8 billion years ago.

“It’s a new window into the history of our universe,” Biden said before the picture was unveiled. “And today we’re going to get a glimpse of the first light to shine through that window: light from other worlds, orbiting stars far beyond our own. It’s astounding to me.”

He was joined at the Old Executive Office Building of the White House complex by Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the U.S. National Space Council.


FROM GRAIN OF SAND IN THE SKY

On Friday, the space agency posted a list of five celestial subjects chosen for its showcase debut of Webb. These include SMACS 0723, a bejewelled-like sliver of the distant cosmos that according to NASA offers “the most detailed view of the early universe to date.” It also constitutes the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant cosmos ever taken.

The thousands of galaxies were captured in a tiny patch of the sky roughly the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone standing on Earth, Nelson said.

Webb was constructed under contract by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp. It was launched to space for NASA and its European and Canadian counterparts on Christmas Day 2021 from French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America.


The highly anticipated release of its first imagery follows six months of remotely unfurling Webb’s various components, aligning its mirrors and calibrating instruments.

With Webb now finely tuned and fully focused, scientists will embark on a competitively selected list of missions exploring the evolution of galaxies, the life cycles of stars, the atmospheres of distant exoplanets and the moons of our outer solar system.

Built to view its subjects chiefly in the infrared spectrum, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than its 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which operates mainly at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The much larger light-collecting surface of Webb’s primary mirror – an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – enables it to observe objects at greater distances, thus further back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.


All five of Webb’s introductory targets were previously known to scientists. Among them are two enormous clouds of gas and dust blasted into space by stellar explosions to form incubators for new stars – the Carina Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, each thousands of light years away from Earth.

The collection also includes a galaxy cluster known as Stephan’s Quintet, which was first discovered in 1877 and encompasses several galaxies described by NASA as “locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters.”

NASA will also present Webb’s first spectrographic analysis of an exoplanet – one roughly half the mass of Jupiter that lies more than 1,100 light years away – revealing the molecular signatures of filtered light passing through its atmosphere.
View attachment 14743
celebrating-the-deepest-photo-of-the-universe-ever-taken-6753651837109815-2xa[1].gif
 

Dexter Sinister

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Sure it could be aimed at them, but those I'm sure would be considered pretty low value targets for one thing, far as I know they've been photographed in satellite flybys and shown not to be what some people thought, or hoped, they were. The so-called face on Mars, for instance, imaged at low resolution by the Viking 1 Orbiter in 1976, was seen in later higher resolution images to be a natural land form. For another thing, objects within the solar system move fast enough to make them hard to track for something as sensitive as the JWSP. Its field of view is very narrow, I doubt it can be rotated quickly enough to keep such things in the field, it wasn't designed for such nearby targets.