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  Kepler-1229b is a planet 2.7 times the mass of Earth in the habitable zone of a red star. Studies indicate that zodiacal light might be visible from its surface, creating a red, almost lavalike glow in the night sky. One of the most coveted sights for skygazers is the zodiacal light, a tall cone of whitish light that climbs the mid-latitude sky before dawn in autumn and at twilight in the spring. The light comes from the Sun glinting off dust particles in the Solar System and the dust, it seems, originates from comets and possibly even from Mars. It turns out that anyone looking up on some exoplanets could see their own zodiacal light as well. In excess In research presented at the virtual 239th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society last week, Jian Ge of Shanghai Astronomical Observatory and Chinese Academy of Sciences — whose team included three high school students — described other solar systems where data suggest there exist debris disks that could gi...

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Tom Jacobs of Bellevue, Washington, loves treasure hunts. Since 2010, the former U.S. naval officer has participated in online volunteer projects that allow anyone who is interested — “citizen scientists” — to look through NASA telescope data for signs of exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system. Now, Jacobs has helped discover a giant gaseous planet about 379 light-years from Earth, orbiting a star with the same mass as the Sun. The Jupiter-size planet is special for astronomers because its 261-day year is long compared to many known gas giants outside our solar system. The result also suggests the planet is just a bit farther from its star than Venus is from the Sun. The finding was published in the Astronomical Journal and presented at an American Astronomical Society virtual press event on Jan. 13.   This illustration depicts a Jupiter-like exoplanet called TOI-2180 b. It was discovered in data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. U...

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Webb Begins Its Months-Long Mirror Alignment

Thursday, January 13th 2022 09:22 AM

  Webb has begun the detailed process of fine-tuning its individual optics into one huge, precise telescope. Engineers first commanded actuators – 126 devices that will move and shape the primary mirror segments, and six devices that will position the secondary mirror – to verify that all are working as expected after launch. The team also commanded actuators that guide Webb’s fine steering mirror to make minor movements, confirming they are working as expected. The fine steering mirror is critical to the process of image stabilization. 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. 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. Learn more about Webb at: webb.nasa.gov   Sou...

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James Webb Space Telescope successfully unfolds mirrors

Wednesday, January 12th 2022 09:38 AM

  Engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute celebrate the successful deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA has pulled off the most technically audacious part of bringing its newest flagship observatory online: unfolding it. On Saturday, Jan. 8, the operations team for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) announced that the observatory’s primary mirror had successfully unfolded its segments — the last major step of the telescope's complicated deployment. The moment was a euphoric moment of validation for the entire team. “We’re on an incredible high right now,” said Bill Ochs, JWST’s project manager, at a press conference. “Today represents the beginning of a journey for this incredible machine, to its discoveries that we'll be making in the future.” To fit inside the nose cone of the Ariane 5 rocket that launched it, the telescope had been designed to fold up, origami-style, and unfold once in space. The a...

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NASA Plans Coverage of Webb Space Telescope Deployments

Thursday, December 30th 2021 12:52 PM

  Thousands of parts must work correctly, in sequence, to unfold NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into its final configuration, all while it flies to a destination nearly 1 million miles away. Over about the next two weeks, NASA will provide broadcast coverage, a media briefing, and other updates on major deployment milestones for the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful space science telescope. Broadcasts of milestone events will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Webb, an international partnership with the ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, launched Dec. 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The observatory had been folded up, origami style, to fit inside an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket for launch. Webb is now in the complex and intricate process of unfolding in space, as it travels nearly 1 million miles to its destination, the second Lagrange point or L2....

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After a successful launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Dec. 25, and completion of two mid-course correction maneuvers, the Webb team has analyzed its initial trajectory and determined the observatory should have enough propellant to allow support of science operations in orbit for significantly more than a 10-year science lifetime. (The minimum baseline for the mission is five years.) The analysis shows that less propellant than originally planned for is needed to correct Webb’s trajectory toward its final orbit around the second Lagrange point known as L2, a point of gravitational balance on the far side of Earth away from the Sun. Consequently, Webb will have much more than the baseline estimate of propellant – though many factors could ultimately affect Webb’s duration of operation. Webb has rocket propellant onboard not only for midcourse correction and insertion into orbit around L2, but also for necessary functions during the life of the mission,...

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  NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched Dec. 25 at 7:20 a.m. EST on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, on the northeastern coast of South America. Webb, a partnership with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched at 7:20 a.m. EST Saturday on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America. A joint effort with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb observatory is NASA’s revolutionary flagship mission to seek the light from the first galaxies in the early universe and to explore our own solar system, as well as planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets. “The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel...

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James Webb Space Telescope Launch Update

Wednesday, December 22nd 2021 10:01 AM

NASA and Arianespace successfully completed the Launch Readiness Review for the James Webb Space Telescope on Dec. 21. The team authorized the Ariane 5 rocket carrying Webb to rollout and the start of launch sequencing for the mission. However, due to adverse weather conditions at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the flight VA256 to launch Webb – initially scheduled for Dec. 24 – is being postponed. The new targeted launch date is Dec. 25, as early as possible within the following launch window: Between 7:20 a.m. and 7:52 a.m. Washington Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:52 a.m. Kourou Between 12:20 p.m. and 12:52 p.m. Universal (UTC) Between 1:20 p.m. and 1:52 p.m. Paris Between 9:20 p.m. and 9:52 p.m. Tokyo Tomorrow evening, another weather forecast will be issued in order to confirm the date of December 25. The Ariane 5 launch vehicle and Webb are in stable and safe conditions in the Final Assembly Building.   A mockup of Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket...

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Capture the sky with Stellarvue’s SVX 102T

Thursday, December 16th 2021 09:19 AM

  The 4-inch refractor has been a favorite of astronomy enthusiasts for countless years, thanks to the combination of portability and resolving power. While these scopes are not the largest light buckets around, they lend themselves well to wide-field observing. Recently, I revisited this classic format. After acquiring a new full-frame camera (the QHY 128C Pro), I needed to find a wide-field telescope to go with it. Careful research led to my selection: Stellarvue’s SVX 102T refractor. The nitty gritty The SVX 102T has a length of 23.5 inches (59.7 centimeters) with the focuser attached, and the dew shield adds an additional 5.5 inches (14 cm). It weighs 9.8 pounds (4.4 kilograms) with both the 2-inch and 1¼-inch ring adapters. The refractor comes with the rings and a Losmandy-style base plate as well as a heavy-duty, reinforced nylon refractor case. Since its founding in 1998, Stellarvue has refined its telescopes into some of the best instruments available to...

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  The James Webb Space Telescope mirrors sit outside a testing chamber in 2011. (Inside Science) -- At 7:20 a.m. EST on Dec. 22, the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built is scheduled to hurtle into space from a launch point near Kourou, French Guiana. It will spend a month traveling roughly a million miles from Earth to a special spot called the second Lagrange point, or L2. L2 is just 1% farther away from the sun than Earth is, forming a straight line with the star and planet. As Earth orbits the sun, so does L2 at the same speed, as if they were both attached to the sun by the same string. The telescope will travel in an ovular orbit around L2 -- from the perspective of the sun, Webb's orbit would look like a halo behind Earth. From this position, the telescope will observe the faint, distant light traveling through space from the earliest galaxies to form in the universe around 13.5 billion years ago. Webb will also learn more about the chemistry of the atmos...

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