Commentary

Searching the sky: NASA to launch $10 billion telescope in October

There are about 400 studies that are scheduled on the new telescope and could reveal secrets about the oldest galaxies, inhabitable planets and even the dawn of the universe.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

 

How excited do you think Galileo was when he first cast his eyes on the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn? We can only imagine how his mind would have reacted if he had the chance to look through the new James Webb telescope to be launched this coming October. But to be honest I don’t think he’d be any more excited than the fortunate astronomers that have the opportunity to look through it now. This is by far the most anticipated astronomical endeavor we have ever tried, and we have had some great ones in the past.

For more than a year now the most powerful telescope ever built, the James Web Space Telescope, is fully booked by scientist around the world to peer at other planets and the origins of the universe. These include about 400 studies that are scheduled and could reveal secrets about the oldest galaxies, inhabitable planets and even the dawn of the universe, scientists said.

“It’s a totally different beast,” said Nestor Espinoza, an astronomer who will be working on James Webb project to examine planets outside our system “We’re going to see stuff that we were not expecting, and that is what really has me super excited.”

The Webb telescope, named for NASA’s second administrator, James E. Webb, is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, with the cost approaching $10 billion.

NASA aims to finally launch it Oct. 31 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket made by France-based Arianespace from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, a region of France in South America. This is the European Space Agency’s contribution to the international project, which also involved the Canadian Space Agency.

The Webb observatory will be much larger than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990. Webb’s main mirror, or light-gathering surface, is 21 feet across, compared to Hubble’s at 7.8 feet. Webb’s solar shield, which will keep its infrared instruments cold in space, is about the size of a tennis court. The telescope will orbit the sun, almost one million miles from Earth.

Astronomer and physics professor at Arizona State University, Rogier Windhorst, said “It’s going to be like Galileo first looking at the sky through a telescope. Our eyes are going to be reopened to the universe. …So, we’re going to see new and unexpected things that we’ve never dreamed of before.”

I have to echo professor Windhorst, and I can’t wait to see what Webb is going to show us in the near future. I’m sure I will be bringing this subject up in the near future. Can’t wait to see what I will be saying about the Webb’s success,  I’m sure it won’t be anything less than spectacular.

Clear skies,

 

A special thank you to Paul Brinkmann of United Press International for partial content.

 

Up and coming events for June 1-15:

Jun 1: Moon Passes 5 degrees south of Jupiter

Jun 2: Last quarter Moon

Jun 2: Mars passes 5 degrees south of Pollux in the constellation Gemini

Jun 2: Moon passes 4 degrees south of Neptune

Jun 7: Moon passes 2 degrees south of Uranus

Jun 7: Moon is at apogee (252,418 miles from Earth)

Jun 10: New Moon

Jun 12: Moon passes 1.5 degrees north of Venus

Jun 13: Moon passes 3 degrees north of Mars

 

David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. Collage (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Guesta, Collages, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonvile, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate Licence in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. Now in December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. Non the less, I am retired, at 77 years of age I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.