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  • richardmitnick 4:15 pm on April 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes   

    From Webb: “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes” 

    NASA Webb Header

    NASA Webb Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    April 25, 2018

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA
    Rogier Windhorst
    Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA

    One of the key science goals of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is to learn about “first light,” the moment when the first stars and galaxies lit the universe. While the first galaxies will be within Webb’s reach, individual stars shine so faintly that Webb would not be able to detect them without help. That help could come in the form of natural magnification from gravitational lensing, according to a new theoretical paper.

    NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes
    Gravitational lensing by a galaxy cluster could bring the early universe into focus for Webb

    A cluster of galaxies can provide the needed gravitational oomph to bring distant objects into focus via lensing. Typical gravitational lensing can boost a target’s brightness by a factor of 10 to 20. But in special circumstances, the light of a faraway star could be amplified by 10,000 times or more.

    If Webb monitors several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year over its lifetime, chances are good that it will detect such a magnified star, or possibly the accretion disk of a black hole from the same era. This would give astronomers a key opportunity to learn about the actual properties of the early universe and compare them to computer models.

    The first stars in the universe blazed to life about 200 to 400 million years after the big bang. Observing those very first individual stars across such vast distances of space normally would be a feat beyond any space telescope. However, new theoretical work suggests that under the right circumstances, and with a little luck, NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to capture light from single stars within that first generation of stars.

    “Looking for the first stars and black holes has long been a goal of astronomy. They will tell us about the actual properties of the very early universe, things we’ve only modeled on our computers until now,” said Rogier Windhorst of Arizona State University, Tempe. Windhorst is lead author of the paper that appeared in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement on February 14, 2018.

    “We want to answer questions about the early universe such as, were binary stars common or were most stars single? How many heavy chemical elements were produced, cooked up by the very first stars, and how did those first stars effect star formation?” added co-author Frank Timmes of Arizona State University.

    The key will be to look for a star that has been gravitationally lensed, its light bent and magnified by the gravity of an intervening galaxy cluster. But not just any gravitational lensing will do. Typical gravitational lensing can magnify light by a factor of 10 to 20 times, not enough to make a first-generation star visible to Webb.

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    This diagram illustrates how rays of light from a distant galaxy or star can be bent by the gravity of an intervening galaxy cluster. As a result, an observer on Earth sees the distant object appear brighter than it would look if it weren’t gravitationally lensed. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild and F. Summers (STScI)

    But if the distant star and closer galaxy cluster line up just right, the star’s light can be amplified 10,000 times or more, bringing it within the realm of detectability. This could be done via so-called cluster caustic transits, where the light from a first star candidate could be enormously magnified for a few months due to the motion of the galaxy cluster across the sky.

    The chances of such a precise alignment are small, but not zero. Astronomers recently announced that Hubble spotted a super-magnified star known as “Icarus.” Although it was the farthest single star ever seen, it was much closer than the stars Webb might locate. With Webb, the team hopes to find a lensed example of a star that formed from the primordial mix of hydrogen and helium that suffused the early universe, which astronomers call Population III stars.

    In addition to the first stars, Windhorst and his colleagues investigated the possibility of seeing accretion disks surrounding the first black holes. Such a black hole, formed by the cataclysmic death of a massive star, could shine brightly if it pulled gas from a companion star.

    The longer an object shines, the more likely it will drift into alignment with a gravitational lens. First-generation stars are expected to have been both massive and short-lived, lasting for just a few million years before exploding as supernovae. In contrast, a black hole stripping a companion star could shine for 10 times longer, feeding from a steady stream of gas. As a result, Webb might detect more black hole accretion disks than early stars.

    The team calculates that an observing program that targets several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year for the lifetime of Webb could succeed in finding a lensed first star or black hole accretion disk. They have already selected some of the best target clusters, including the Hubble Frontier Fields clusters and the cluster known as “El Gordo.”

    “We just have to get lucky and observe these clusters long enough,” said Windhorst. “The astronomical community would need to continue to monitor these clusters during Webb’s lifetime.”

    The authors of the Astrophysical Journal Supplement paper are R. Windhorst and F. Timmes (Arizona State University), S. Wyithe (University of Melbourne), M. Alpaslan (New York University), S. Andrews (The University of Western Australia), D. Coe (Space Telescope Science Institute), J. Diego (IFCA), M. Dijkstra (University of Oslo), S. Driver (The University of Western Australia), P. Kelly (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), and D. Kim (Arizona State University).

    ______________________________________________________________
    The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
    ______________________________________________________________

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for later in the decade.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There will be four science instruments on Webb: the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and the Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.

    NASA Webb NIRCam

    NASA Webb NIRspec

    NASA Webb MIRI

    CSA Webb Fine Guidance Sensor-Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph FGS/NIRISS


    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    NASA image

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    Canadian Space Agency

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  • richardmitnick 12:10 pm on January 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , CSA Webb Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), NASA Webb Near Infrared Imager NIRCam, NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From NASA Webb: “NASA’s Webb Telescope to Investigate Mysterious Brown Dwarfs” 

    NASA Webb Header

    NASA Webb Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    Jan. 4, 2018
    Leah Ramsay
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.

    Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Astronomers are hopeful that the powerful infrared capability of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will resolve a puzzle as fundamental as stargazing itself — what IS that dim light in the sky? Brown dwarfs muddy a clear distinction between stars and planets, throwing established understanding of those bodies, and theories of their formation, into question.

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    Stellar cluster NGC 1333 is home to a large number of brown dwarfs. Astronomers will use Webb’s powerful infrared instruments to learn more about these dim cousins to the cluster’s bright newborn stars. Credits: NASA/CXC/JPL

    Several research teams will use Webb to explore the mysterious nature of brown dwarfs, looking for insight into both star formation and exoplanet atmospheres, and the hazy territory in-between where the brown dwarf itself exists. Previous work with Hubble, Spitzer, and ALMA have shown that brown dwarfs can be up to 70 times more massive than gas giants like Jupiter, yet they do not have enough mass for their cores to burn nuclear fuel and radiate starlight.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    Though brown dwarfs were theorized in the 1960s and confirmed in 1995, there is not an accepted explanation of how they form: like a star, by the contraction of gas, or like a planet, by the accretion of material in a protoplanetary disk? Some have a companion relationship with a star, while others drift alone in space.

    At the Université de Montréal, Étienne Artigau leads a team that will use Webb to study a specific brown dwarf, labeled SIMP0136.

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    SIMP0136+0933. http://www.exoplanetkyoto.org

    It is a low-mass, young, isolated brown dwarf — one of the closest to our Sun — all of which make it fascinating for study, as it has many features of a planet without being too close to the blinding light of a star. SIMP0136 was the object of a past scientific breakthrough by Artigau and his team, when they found evidence suggesting it has a cloudy atmosphere. He and his colleagues will use Webb’s spectroscopic instruments to learn more about the chemical elements and compounds in those clouds.

    “Very accurate spectroscopic measurements are challenging to obtain from the ground in the infrared due to variable absorption in our own atmosphere, hence the need for space-based infrared observation. Also, Webb allows us to probe features, such as water absorption, that are inaccessible from the ground at this level of precision,” Artigau explains.

    2
    Artist’s conception of a brown dwarf, featuring the cloudy atmosphere of a planet and the residual light of an almost-star. Credits: NASA/ESA/JPL

    These observations could lay groundwork for future exoplanet exploration with Webb, including which worlds could support life. Webb’s infrared instruments will be capable of detecting the types of molecules in the atmospheres of exoplanets by seeing which elements are absorbing light as the planet passes in front of its star, a scientific technique known as transit spectroscopy.

    “The brown dwarf SIMP0136 has the same temperature as various planets that will be observed in transit spectroscopy with Webb, and clouds are known to affect this type of measurement; our observations will help us better understand cloud decks in brown dwarfs and planet atmospheres in general,” Artigau says.

    The search for low-mass, isolated brown dwarfs was one of the early science goals put forward for the Webb telescope in the 1990s, says astronomer Aleks Scholz of the University of St. Andrews. Brown dwarfs have a lower mass than stars and do not “shine” but merely emit the dim afterglow of their birth, and so they are best seen in infrared light, which is why Webb will be such a valuable tool in this research.

    Scholz, who also leads the Substellar Objects in Nearby Young Clusters (SONYC) project, will use Webb’s Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) to study NGC 1333 in the constellation of Perseus. NGC 1333 is a stellar nursery that has also been found to harbor an unusually high number of brown dwarfs, some of them at the very low end of the mass range for such objects – in other words, not much heavier than Jupiter.

    4
    NASA Webb Near Infrared Imager NIRCam

    5
    CSA Webb Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS)

    3
    Dusty NGC 1333 is seen as a reflection nebula in visible light images, sporting bluish hues characteristic of starlight reflected by dust. But at longer infrared wavelengths, the interstellar dust itself glows – shown in red in this false-color Spitzer Space Telescope image. The penetrating infrared view also shows youthful stars that would otherwise still be obscured by the dusty clouds which formed them. Notably, greenish streaks and splotches that seem to litter the region trace the glow of cosmic jets blasting away from emerging young stellar objects as the jets plow into the cold cloud material. In all, the chaotic scene likely resembles one in which our own Sun formed over 4.5 billion years ago. NGC 1333 is a mere 1,000 light-years distant in the constellation Perseus.

    “In more than a decade of searching, our team has found it is very difficult to locate brown dwarfs that are less than five Jupiter-masses – the mass where star and planet formation overlap. That is a job for the Webb telescope,” Scholz says. “It has been a long wait for Webb, but we are very excited to get an opportunity to break new ground and potentially discover an entirely new type of planets, unbound, roaming the Galaxy like stars.”

    Both of the projects led by Scholz and Artigau are making use of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTOs), observing time on the telescope that is granted to astronomers who have worked for years to prepare Webb’s scientific operations.

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific complement to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

    For more information about the Webb telescope, visit http://www.nasa.gov/webb or http://www.webbtelescope.org

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for later in the decade.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There will be four science instruments on Webb: the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and the Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    NASA image

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

     
  • richardmitnick 3:14 pm on January 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From Webb: Three articles 

    NASA Webb Header

    NASA Webb Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    1. How Do We Know There Are Black Holes?


    Motion of “S2” and other stars around the central Black Hole
    An international team of astronomers, lead by researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), has directly observed an otherwise normal star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

    S2 was followed closely over a period of years by Andrea Ghez, UCLA, on the UCO/Caltech Keck telescope.

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft), above sea level, showing also NASA’s IRTF and NAOJ Subaru

    Black holes are among the most mysterious and fascinating features of the universe, captivating scientists since the 18th century, including Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. They are often described as consuming their surrounding gas, the result of gravity so intense that nothing can escape its pull, not even the fastest known traveler in the universe: light itself. But if black holes don’t emit or reflect light, which means we can’t see them, how do astronomers know they are there?

    The answer actually applies to many subjects studied in physics and deep-space astronomy—when you can’t observe something directly, or you can’t explain something you are seeing, you make educated guesses based on what you do see: the effect on other objects. On Earth, you can know it’s a windy day without stepping outside, because a flag is flapping. Astronomers know there is a black hole when the stars or gas around it are distorted or otherwise changed. These effects show up in a few ways.

    Astronomers can observe a star accelerating in orbit around an unseen companion, rather than a detectable binary companion star (see video above). By measuring the orbiting star’s rate of acceleration, astronomers can calculate the mass of the object pulling on it; when this mass is so large that nothing else can explain it, astronomers conclude it is a black hole.

    In other instances, X-ray telescopes can observe electromagnetic radiation from a star that comes close to a black hole and is pulled apart by its gravity.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    ESA/XMM Newton X-ray telescope

    NASA NuSTAR X-ray telescope

    These black holes accumulate cosmic matter around themselves in a swirling pattern called an accretion disk. Gas particles in the disc accelerate and collide, heating to millions of degrees and giving off the detectable X-rays.

    Black holes causing these types of phenomena are at least three times the mass of the Sun and are classified as stellar black holes.

    On a larger scale, supermassive black holes have a mass of more than one million Suns, and so must develop and grow very differently than stellar black holes. According to observations of intense gravitational attraction and energy in the center of galaxies made by the Hubble Space Telescope since the early 1990s, there is evidence for supermassive black holes at the heart of nearly all large galaxies, including our Milky Way.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    With greater mass and thus greater gravity, supermassive black holes attract more matter that becomes hotter and more volatile. In some cases this super-heated matter shoots off into the universe as jets of gas that can be millions of light-years long. Astronomers have observed these gas ejections, known as outflow, and see it as a way of regulating galaxy expansion and the birth of new stars.

    To see the dynamic dance of dust, stars, and gas clouds being shred apart and falling into a black hole, astronomers need powerful telescopes. Hubble made significant progress in confirming and studying galactic supermassive black holes.The James Webb Space Telescope’s powerful infrared instruments will see through the cosmic dust and analyze the details of outflow, providing new information about this process and its role in galaxy evolution.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Webb mirror compared to Hubble mirror

    Webb will also be able to “see” deeper into space, and thus further back in time, to the formation of the first stars, galaxies, and perhaps black holes. Astronomers think early black holes developed at a much faster rate than black holes that are closer/more recent, which means observing these earlier cosmic citizens would shed light on the nature of their descendants, our neighbors we know well and have studied for decades.

    2. Webb and the Infancy of the Universe


    The Great Photon Escape
    In a flash known as the Big Bang, our universe was born. Yet for hundreds of thousands of years, light from the Big Bang was scattered and trapped in a dense fog. Eventually, though, that light made its “great escape” and the universe was plunged into total darkness. These cosmic “Dark Ages” lasted for millions of years until the first stars and galaxies burst to life and began to illuminate the universe. However, no one knows just when this happened, or what the earliest stars and galaxies were really like, because we’ve never seen them. The Webb telescope will use its powerful infrared vision to spy the very first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe and help us understand how today’s universe came to be.

    The era of the universe called the “Dark Ages” is as mysterious as its name implies.

    Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with a glowing plasma, or ionized gas. As the universe cooled and expanded, electrons and protons began to bind together to form neutral hydrogen atoms. As the last of the light from the Big Bang escaped, the universe — now about 378,000 years old — would have been a dark place, with no sources of light to illuminate its fog of cooling, neutral hydrogen gas.

    Some of that gas would have begun coalescing into dense clumps, pulled together by gravity. As these clumps grew larger and denser, they would become stars, and eventually, galaxies. Slowly, light would begin to shine again in the universe. Eventually, as the early stars grew in numbers and brightness, they would have emitted enough ultraviolet radiation to “reionize” the hydrogen, removing the electrons from their bonded protons and neutrons.

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    Matter in the early universe slowly accumulated into larger structures, from molecules and clouds of molecular gas to stars and eventually galaxies. Radiation from these early cosmic objects would eventually begin the time of the universe known as “reionization.” Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

    Reionization era and first stars, Caltech

    Webb, with its ability to see light from extremely distant objects that has had to travel for billions of years to reach us, will see some of the universe’s first objects. As Webb observes light that’s traveled from the far reaches of the cosmos, it captures images of distant stars and forming galaxies as they were in the earliest stages of the universe.

    Astronomers know the universe became reionized because when they look out in space and back in time at the light of very distant quasars — incredibly bright objects thought to be powered by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies — they don’t see the dimming of their light that would occur through a fog of neutral hydrogen gas. They find clouds of hydrogen, but almost no detectable clouds of neutral hydrogen drifting between galaxies, meaning the gas was at some point reionized. Exactly when this occurred is one of the questions Webb will help answer, by looking for glimpses of very distant objects, like quasars, still dimmed by neutral hydrogen gas.

    4
    The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is a look back in space and time that captures an estimated 10,000 galaxies in various stages of evolution, back to within 500 million years of the Big Bang. Webb’s infrared vision will allow it to reach back even farther, to see the very first stars and galaxies.

    Cosmic Conundrums

    Much remains to be uncovered about the time of reionization. The universe right after the Big Bang would have consisted of hydrogen, helium, and a small amount of lithium. But the stars we see today also contain heavier elements — elements that are created inside stars. So how did those first stars form from such limited ingredients? Webb will not be able to see the very first stars of the Dark Ages, but it’ll witness the generation immediately following, and analyze the kinds of materials they contain.

    Webb will also show us how early galaxies formed from those first clumps of stars. The universe’s first stars, believed to be 30 to 300 times as massive as our Sun and millions of times as bright, would have burned for only a few million years before dying in tremendous explosions, or “supernovae.” These explosions spewed the recently manufactured chemical elements of stars outward into the universe before the expiring stars collapsed into black holes or dim, cinder-like cores.

    Scientists suspect the black holes born from the explosion of the earliest stars devoured gas and stars around them, becoming the extremely bright objects called “mini-quasars.” The mini-quasars, in turn, may have grown and merged to become the huge black holes found in the centers of present-day galaxies. Webb will try to find and understand these supernovae and mini-quasars to put theories of early universe formation to the test.

    Webb will show us whether the first galaxies formed along filaments and webs of dark matter, as expected, and when. Right now we know the first galaxies formed anywhere from 378,000 years to 400 million years after the Big Bang. Many models have been created to explain which era gave rise to galaxies, but Webb will pinpoint the precise time period.

    3.Webb and the Universe

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    The collision of the Antennae galaxies triggered the formation of millions of stars in clouds of gas and dust within the galaxies. Infrared observations in this image show warm dust clouds heated by newborn stars, with the brightest clouds lying in the overlapping region between the galaxies.

    When we look out into the universe, we see galaxies with magnificent spiraling arms and galaxies that glow like giant lightbulbs. But these spiral and elliptical galaxies weren’t born in these familiar shapes. Galaxies in the early universe were probably small and clumpy. So how did these modest groups of stars evolve into the grand structures we see today?

    When telescopes peer into the universe, they look back in time. The reason is simple — light needs time to travel through space. Even the light from the Moon is 1.3 seconds old when it arrives on Earth. The most distant galaxies Hubble has spied are more than 13 billion light-years away. That means the light Hubble captures left those galaxies over 13 billion years ago.

    But there’s another complication. As the universe expands, light gets stretched into longer and longer wavelengths, turning visible light into infrared light. By the time visible light from extremely distant galaxies reaches us, it appears as infrared light. Hubble can detect some infrared light — the wavelengths closest to the red end of the visible spectrum. But infrared light will be the Webb telescope’s specialty.

    Where Hubble sees young galaxies, Webb will show us newborns. Webb will capture the earliest stages of galaxy formation, and perhaps even reveal when galaxies first started forming in the universe. Webb could show how small galaxies in the early universe merged to form larger galaxies. Finally, Webb will see more of the ordinary early galaxies, where Hubble only sees the brightest outliers. This expanded sample of early galaxies will give astronomers a better idea of how galaxies really looked as they first came into being, and help to map the universe’s overall structure.

    The Hidden Universe

    Webb’s infrared prowess will also allow it to see inside dust-cloaked regions of galaxies that visible light cannot escape from, and find out what’s happening within them. For many different types and ages of galaxies, Webb will expose how stars are forming, how many stars are forming, and how star formation is affected by the surrounding environment. Webb will study star-birth regions in merging galaxies, revealing how these galactic encounters trigger and alter the course of star formation as their gaseous components collide and mix. Webb will analyze how elements are produced and distributed in galaxies, and also examine the exchange of material between galaxies and the space between them.

    Webb will also explore an era known as the Dark Ages and the time immediately following it, the period of reionization. About 378,000 years after the Big Bang, as the universe cooled and expanded, electrons and protons began to bind together to form hydrogen atoms. As the last of the light from the Big Bang faded, the universe would have been a dark place, with no sources of light within the cooling hydrogen gas.

    6
    Light must travel through space over time. As telescopes capture light emanating from objects in the distant universe, they observe different stages of development. Webb’s infrared vision will allow it to see the first stars and galaxies to develop after the Big Bang.

    Eventually the gas would have coalesced to form stars and eventually galaxies. Over time, most of the hydrogen was “reionized,” turning it back into protons and electrons and allowing light to travel across space once again. Astronomers are currently unsure whether the energy responsible for reionization came from stars in the early forming galaxies, hot gas surrounding massive black holes, or some even more exotic source such as decaying dark matter. Webb’s infrared capabilities will allow it to identify the sources that gave rise to reionization. And perhaps Webb will see the stars and bright galaxies called “quasars” that unleashed enough energy to re-illuminate the universe.

    7
    Hubble’s eXtreme Deep Field image combines a decade of Hubble observations, including some taken in infrared light, to create one of the deepest pictures of the universe ever taken, spanning 13.2 billion years of galaxy formation. About 5,000 galaxies appear in this image.

    See the full article starting here but continuing .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for later in the decade.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There will be four science instruments on Webb: the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and the Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    NASA image

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

     
  • richardmitnick 11:00 am on November 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb, The Space Telescope Science Institute is announcing some of the first science programs NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will conduct following its launch and commissioning   

    From James Webb Space Telescope via HubbleSite: “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Early Science Observations Revealed” 

    NASA Webb Header

    NASA Webb Telescope

    James Webb Space Telescope

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Nov 13, 2017
    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4366
    cpulliam@stsci.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    1
    First Publicly Available Science Observations for Webb Announced
    The Space Telescope Science Institute is announcing some of the first science programs NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will conduct following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS), which will provide the scientific community with immediate access to Webb data. These data will help inform proposals for observations in the second year of Webb operations. The 13 ERS programs will address a broad variety of science areas, from black hole growth and the assembly of galaxies to star formation and the study of exoplanets.

    Astronomers around the world will have immediate access to early data from specific science observations from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will be completed within the first five months of Webb’s science operations. These observing programs were chosen from a Space Telescope Science Institute call for early release science proposals, and include examining Jupiter and its moons, searching for organic molecules forming around infant stars, weighing supermassive black holes lurking in galactic cores, and hunting for baby galaxies born in the early universe.

    “I’m thrilled to see the list of astronomers’ most fascinating targets for the Webb telescope, and extremely eager to see the results. We fully expect to be surprised by what we find,” said Dr. John C. Mather, Senior Project Scientist for the Webb telescope and Senior Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

    The resulting observations will comprise the Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS), and cover the gamut of Webb science targets, from planets in our solar system to the most distant galaxies. The program provides the entire scientific community with immediate access to Webb data so they have the opportunity to analyze the data and plan follow-up observations.

    “We were impressed by the high quality of the proposals received,” said Dr. Ken Sembach, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. “These observing programs not only will generate great science, but also will be a unique resource for demonstrating the investigative capabilities of this extraordinary observatory to the worldwide scientific community.”

    The observations will also exercise all four of Webb’s science instruments, so that the astronomical community can explore Webb’s full potential. Webb has a minimum scientific lifetime of five years, so the scientific community will have to rapidly learn to use its advanced capabilities.

    “We want the research community to be as scientifically productive as possible, as early as possible, which is why I am so pleased to be able to dedicate nearly 500 hours of director’s discretionary time to these ERS observations,” said Sembach.

    One of the most widely anticipated areas of research by Webb is to study planets orbiting other stars. When such an exoplanet passes in front of its host star, starlight filters through the planet’s atmosphere, which absorbs certain colors of light depending on the chemical composition. Webb will measure this absorption, using its powerful infrared spectrographs, to look for the chemical fingerprints of the atmosphere’s gasses. Astronomers initially will train their gaze onto gaseous Jupiter-sized worlds like WASP-39b and WASP-43b because they are easier targets on which to apply this technique. The results will help guide observing strategies for smaller, mostly rocky and more Earth-like super-Earths, where atmospheric composition may give hints of a planet’s potential habitability.

    Webb also will peer into the distant universe, examining galaxies whose light has been stretched into infrared wavelengths by the expansion of space. This infrared region is beyond what Hubble can detect. Galaxy clusters are particularly rich sources of targets, since a cluster’s gravity can magnify light from more distant background galaxies. DD-ERS observations will target regions of the sky already examined by Hubble’s Frontier Fields program, such as the galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745. Webb data will complement Hubble’s, giving astronomers new insights into these cornucopias of galaxies.

    Since Webb must remain shielded from sunlight, its field of view is limited to specific areas of the sky at certain times of year. As a result, the potential targets listed above may shift depending on the launch date.

    More than 100 proposals for DD-ERS observations were submitted in August 2017. Of those, 13 programs requesting 460 hours of telescope time were selected following review by panels of subject matter experts and the STScI director.

    Additional information about the selected DD-ERS proposals is available online.

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific complement to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the premier space observatory of the next decade.

    See the full article here .

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    The James Webb Space Telescope will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Launch is planned for later in the decade.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There will be four science instruments on Webb: the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and the Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch is scheduled for later in the decade on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch will be from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb will be located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    NASA image

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

     
  • richardmitnick 4:29 pm on October 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the Big Bang: A Short Q&A with Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Oct. 11, 2017
    Maggie Masetti
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    1
    Dr. John Mather, a Nobel laureate and the senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

    Q: What is the Big Bang?

    A: The Big Bang is a really misleading name for the expanding universe that we see. We see an infinite universe with distant galaxies all rushing away from each other.

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    The name Big Bang conveys the idea of a firecracker exploding at a time and a place — with a center. The universe doesn’t have a center, at least not one we can find. The Big Bang happened everywhere at once and was a process happening in time, not a point in time. We know this because 1) we see galaxies rushing away from each other, not from a central point; 2) we see the heat that was left over from early times, and that heat uniformly fills the universe; and 3) we can calculate and imagine what the universe was like when the parts were much closer together, and the calculations match everything we can see.

    Q: Can we see the Big Bang?

    A: No, the Big Bang itself is not something we can see.

    Q: What can we see?

    A: We can see the heat radiation that was there when the universe was young. We see this heat as it was about 380,000 years after the expansion of the universe began 13.8 billion years ago (which is what we refer to as the Big Bang). This heat covers the entire sky and fills the universe. (In fact it still does.) We were able to map it with satellites we (NASA and ESA) built called the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and Planck. The universe at this point was extremely smooth, with only tiny ripples in temperature.

    Cosmic Infrared Background, Credit: Michael Hauser (Space Telescope Science Institute), the COBE/DIRBE Science Team, and NASA

    NASA/COBE

    1
    All-sky image of the infant universe, created from nine years of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).
    Credits: NASA/WMAP Science Team

    NASA/WMAP

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    ESA/Planck

    Q: I heard the James Webb Space Telescope will see back further than ever before. What will Webb see?

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    A: COBE, WMAP, and Planck all saw further back than Webb, though it’s true that Webb will see farther back than Hubble.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Webb was designed not to see the beginnings of the universe, but to see a period of the universe’s history that we have not seen yet.

    Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, Big Bang-Inflation (timeline of the universe) Date 2010 Credit: Alex MittelmannColdcreation

    Specifically, we want to see the first objects that formed as the universe cooled down after the Big Bang. That time period is perhaps hundreds of millions of years later than the one COBE, WMAP, and Planck were built to see. We think that the tiny ripples of temperature they observed were the seeds that eventually grew into galaxies. We don’t know exactly when the universe made the first stars and galaxies — or how for that matter. That is what we are building Webb to help answer.

    Q: Why can’t Hubble see the first stars and galaxies forming?

    A: The only way we can see back to the time when these objects were forming is to look very far away. Hubble isn’t big enough or cold enough to see the faint heat signals of these objects that are so far away.

    Q: Why do we want to see the first stars and galaxies forming?

    A: The chemical elements of life were first produced in the first generation of stars after the Big Bang. We are here today because of them — and we want to better understand how that came to be! We have ideas, we have predictions, but we don’t know. One way or another the first stars must have influenced our own history, beginning with stirring up everything and producing the other chemical elements besides hydrogen and helium. So if we really want to know where our atoms came from, and how the little planet Earth came to be capable of supporting life, we need to measure what happened at the beginning.

    Dr. John Mather is the senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. Dr. Mather shares the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics with George F. Smoot of the University of California for their work using the COBE satellite to measure the heat radiation from the Big Bang.

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific complement to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the premier space observatory of the next decade. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

    For more information about the Webb telescope, visit: http://www.webb.nasa.gov or http://www.nasa.gov/webb

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 9:28 pm on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s Webb Telescope to Witness Galactic Infancy” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Oct. 4, 2017
    Eric Villard
    eric.s.villard@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Starfield
    The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is a snapshot of about 10,000 galaxies in a tiny patch of sky, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
    Credits: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), the HUDF Team

    After it launches and is fully commissioned, scientists plan to focus Webb telescope on sections of the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS).

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    These sections of sky are among Webb’s list of targets chosen by guaranteed time observers, scientists who helped develop the telescope and thus get to be among the first to use it to observe the universe. The group of scientists will primarily use Webb’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) to examine a section of HUDF, and Webb’s near infrared camera (NIRCam) to image part of GOODS.

    NASA Webb MIRI

    NASA Webb NIRCam

    “By mixing [the data from] these instruments, we’ll get information about the current star formation rate, but we’ll also get information about the star formation history,” explained Hans Ulrik Nørgaard-Nielsen, an astronomer at the Danish Space Research Institute in Denmark and the principal investigator for the proposed observations.

    Pablo Pérez-González, an astrophysics professor at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain and one of several co-investigators on Nørgaard-Nielsen’s proposed observation, said they will use Webb to observe about 40 percent of the HUDF area with MIRI, in roughly the same location that ground-based telescopes like the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) obtained ultra-deep field data.

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    The iconic HUDF image shows about 10,000 galaxies in a tiny section of the sky, equivalent to the amount of sky you would see with your naked eye if you looked at it through a soda straw. Many of these galaxies are very faint, more than 1 billion times fainter than what the naked human eye can see, marking them as some of the oldest galaxies within the visible universe.

    With its powerful spectrographic instruments, Webb will see much more detail than imaging alone can provide. Spectroscopy measures the spectrum of light, which scientists analyze to determine physical properties of what is being observed, including temperature, mass, and chemical composition. Pérez-González explained this will allow scientists to study how gases transformed into stars in the first galaxies, and to better understand the first phases in the formation of supermassive black holes, including how those black holes affect the formation of their home galaxy. Astronomers believe the center of nearly every galaxy contains a supermassive black hole, and that these black holes are related to galactic formation.

    MIRI can observe in the infrared wavelength range of 5 to 28 microns. Pérez-González said they will use the instrument to observe a section of HUDF in 5.6 microns, which Spitzer is capable of, but that Webb will be able to see objects 250 times fainter and with eight times more spatial resolution. In this case, spatial resolution is the ability of an optical telescope, such as Webb, to see the smallest details of an object.

    Pérez-González said in the area of HUDF they will observe, Hubble was able to see about 4,000 galaxies. He added that, with Webb, they “will detect around 2,000 to 2,500 galaxies, but in a completely different spectral band, so many galaxies will be quite different from the ones that [Hubble] detected.”

    With NIRCam, the team will observe a piece of the GOODS region near their selected section of HUDF. The entire GOODS survey field includes observations from Hubble, Spitzer, and several other space observatories.

    “These NIRCam images will be taken in three bands, and they will be the deepest obtained by any guaranteed time observation team,” explained Pérez-González.

    NIRCam can observe in the infrared wavelength range of 0.6 to 5 microns. Pérez-González explained they will use it to observe a section of GOODS in the 1.15 micron band, which Hubble is capable of, but that Webb will be able to see objects 50 times fainter and with two times more spatial resolution. They will also use it to observe the 2.8 and 3.6 micron bands. Spitzer is able to do this as well, but Webb will be able to observe objects nearly 100 times fainter and with eight times greater spatial resolution.

    Because the universe is expanding, light from distant objects in the universe is “redshifted,” meaning the light emitted by those objects is visible in the redder wavelengths by the time it reaches us. The objects farthest away from us, those with the highest redshifts, have their light shifted into the near- and mid-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Webb telescope is specifically designed to observe the objects in that area of the spectrum, which makes it ideal for looking at the early universe.

    “When you build an observatory with unprecedented capabilities, most probably the most interesting results will not be those that you can expect or predict, but those that no one can imagine,” said Pérez-González.

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific complement to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

    MIRI was built by ESA, in partnership with the European Consortium, a group of scientists and engineers from European countries; a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; and scientists from several U.S. institutions. NIRCam was built by Lockheed Martin and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

    For more information about Webb telescope, visit: http://www.webb.nasa.gov or http://www.nasa.gov/webb

    For more information about Hubble telescope, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

    For more information about Spitzer telescope, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 7:29 am on September 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb, , Super-Earths a juicy target for new space telescope   

    From SAO via Cosmos: “Super-Earths a juicy target for new space telescope” 

    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

    COSMOS

    11 September 2017
    Andrew Masterson

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    The discovery of three “super-Earth” planets orbiting a dwarf star roughly 97 light years away provides a juicy target for the James Webb Space Telescope to be launched later this year, say US astronomers.

    In a paper posted on the pre-print science platform arXiv, a team of scientists led by Joseph Rodriguez from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, US, say the discovery affords a rare opportunity to investigate the dividing line between smaller rocky planets and larger gaseous ones.

    The planets, dubbed GJ 9827-b, -c, and –d, all orbit a K-type dwarf star, and do so rapidly, with orbits that range between 1.2 and 6.2 Earth-days. The frequency of their orbit means that the new space telescope – a joint venture between NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies – will be able to monitor them many times as they move in front of their host star, potentially revealing a wide array of valuable information.

    Rodriguez and colleagues are particularly excited about the discovery because two of them fall within a size range that so far seems rare – or at least elusive.

    To date, more than 3000 exoplanets have been identified, with the Kepler mission adding at least another 4500 candidates to the list.

    The California Kepler Survey, operated by NASA, has so far logged precise radii for 2000 identified planets and produced a surprising result. Almost all of them fall in a range that tops out at one-and-a-half times the radius of Earth, or starts at two.

    This has led to the observation that so far all exoplanets seem to be either super-Earths or mini-Neptunes.

    2
    PLANETARY COUSINS Planets may be lumped into two groups: smaller and rocky like Kepler-452b (left), or bigger and gassy like Kepler-22b (right). W. Stenzel/NASA Ames. Science News.

    The key difference, of course, is that those on the Earth-side of the divide are rocky, and those on the Neptune side are gaseous.

    One theory for the puzzling lack of intermediates is that the rocky “sub-Neptune” planets recorded so far orbit comparatively close to their host stars. This may mean that solar radiation burns off the thick gaseous envelopes that cloak their more distant neighbours, leaving only small rocky cores.

    GJ 9827-b, at 1.64 Earth radii, and GJ 9827-d, at 2.08, fall between the two divisions, potentially affording strong opportunities to study the transitional zone between rocky Earths and gassy Neptunes. GJ 9827-c has a radius of 1.29 Earth equivalents, and should therefore be simply rocky.

    The short orbit periods of the three planets, the researchers note, will enable repeated observations over a limited timespan.

    “The planets span the transition from rocky to gaseous planets, so the characteristics of their atmospheres and interior structures may illuminate how the structure and composition of small planets change with radius,” the scientists write.

    See the full article here .

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    About CfA

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy. The long relationship between the two organizations, which began when the SAO moved its headquarters to Cambridge in 1955, was formalized by the establishment of a joint center in 1973. The CfA’s history of accomplishments in astronomy and astrophysics is reflected in a wide range of awards and prizes received by individual CfA scientists.

    Today, some 300 Smithsonian and Harvard scientists cooperate in broad programs of astrophysical research supported by Federal appropriations and University funds as well as contracts and grants from government agencies. These scientific investigations, touching on almost all major topics in astronomy, are organized into the following divisions, scientific departments and service groups.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on September 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new look at ocean worlds, , , , , , Europa and Enceladus - Ocean worlds?, NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From EarthSky: “A new look at ocean worlds” 

    1

    EarthSky

    September 4, 2017
    Paul Scott Anderson

    Here’s how the James Webb Space Telescope – successor to Hubble, due to launch in 2018 – will study Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    1
    This is Saturn’s moon Enceladus, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. It’s thought to have a subsurface ocean and can be seen spewing water vapor from its interior. Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be used to study two of the most fascinating moons in our solar system – Europa and Enceladus, also known as ocean worlds since both have global oceans of water beneath their outer icy surfaces. The new observations will help scientists learn more about conditions on these worlds and guide the development of future robotic missions.

    Both moons are exciting targets since Europa’s surface has deposits of minerals thought to have come up from the ocean below, and Enceladus has huge plumes of water vapor erupting through fissures in the icy surface, originating from the subsurface ocean. Europa may also have plumes, which have been tentatively identified but not confirmed yet. Enceladus’ plumes also contain organic compounds of various complexities, which were sampled directly by the Cassini spacecraft multiple times.

    2
    A Galileo orbiter image of Europa has been added to a just-released Hubble Space Telescope image of what might be towering geysers of water erupting from near the moon’s south pole. NASA / ESA / W. Sparks / USGS Astrogeology Science Center

    3
    Enceladus. NASA.

    Astronomer Heidi Hammel is executive vice president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA). She is spearheading the effort to study our solar system with the Webb telescope. She said:

    “We chose these two moons because of their potential to exhibit chemical signatures of astrobiological interest.”

    Astronomers will use Webb’s near-infrared camera (NIRCam) to take high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, to search for hot regions related to plumes and active geological processes. If a plume is found, they can then use Webb’s near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) and mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) to analyze the plume’s composition. This video below shows possible results of using spectroscopy on Europa’s water plumes, obtainable using the Webb telescope’s NIRSpec instrument.

    NASA Webb NIRCam

    NASA Webb NIRspec

    NASA Webb MIRI

    Geronimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the lead scientist on the Webb telescope’s observation of Europa and Enceladus. He said:

    “Are they made of water ice? Is hot water vapor being released? What is the temperature of the active regions and the emitted water? Webb telescope’s measurements will allow us to address these questions with unprecedented accuracy and precision.”

    JWST will be able to study Enceladus’ plumes and surface in a similar manner, even though it is about 10 times smaller than Europa as seen by the telescope.

    For both moons, a focus will be to search for organic signatures such as methane, methanol, and ethane in the plumes. Evidence of life itself, like microbes, would be more difficult since some life-like processes could also have a geological explanation. Villanueva noted:

    “We only expect detections if the plumes are particularly active and if they are organic-rich.”

    JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and will be the most powerful space-based telescope ever built. It is an international project led by NASA, along with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

    Even if JWST isn’t able to find signs of life on either moon, it will be another huge step in understanding what conditions are like, both on their surfaces and below the ice in the oceans themselves, building on results from spacecraft such as Galileo and Cassini. It will help prepare the way for future, more advanced probes on the drawing boards now which may be able to answer that question of whether life has ever existed on (in) these far-off ocean worlds.

    4
    Diagram of an interior cross-section of the crust of Enceladus, showing how hydrothermal activity is thought to be causing the plumes of water vapor on the surface. Image via NASA-GSFC/SVS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute.

    Bottom line: The James Webb Space Telescope will be used in part to study our own solar system, for example, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, both considered ocean worlds.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on August 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , GTO-Guaranteed Time Observations, NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From Hubble: ” Icy Moons, Galaxy Clusters, and Distant Worlds Among Selected Targets for James Webb Space Telescope” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Jun 15, 2017 [This just appeared in social media]

    Christine Pulliam
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4366
    cpulliam@stsci.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    Natasha Pinol
    NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
    202-358-0930
    natasha.r.pinol@nasa.gov

    1
    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb

    Prologue

    Webb Telescope Guaranteed Time Observations Targets Announced

    Mission officials for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope announced some of the science targets the telescope will observe following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), which provides dedicated time to the scientists that helped design and build the telescope’s four instruments. The broad spectrum of initial GTO observations will address all of the science areas Webb is designed to explore, from first light and the assembly of galaxies to the birth of stars and planets. Targets will range from the solar system’s outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and icy Kuiper Belt to exoplanets to distant galaxies in the young universe.

    The Full Story

    Mission officials for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope announced some of the science targets the telescope will observe following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), which provides dedicated time to the scientists that helped design and build the telescope’s four instruments.

    “From the very first galaxies after the Big Bang, to searching for chemical fingerprints of life on Enceladus, Europa, and exoplanets like TRAPPIST-1e, Webb will be looking at some incredible things in our universe,” said Eric Smith, James Webb Space Telescope Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With over 2,100 initial observations planned, there is no limit to what we might discover with this incredible telescope.”

    The broad spectrum of initial GTO observations will address all of the science areas Webb is designed to explore, from first light and the assembly of galaxies to the birth of stars and planets. Targets will range from the solar system’s outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and icy Kuiper Belt to exoplanets to distant galaxies in the young universe.

    “The definition of observations to be conducted by the Webb Guaranteed Time Observers is a major milestone along the timeline for producing revolutionary science with this incredibly powerful observatory. These observations by the teams of people who designed and built the Webb instruments will yield not only amazing science, but will be crucial in putting the observatory through its paces and understanding its many capabilities,” said Dr. Ken Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which will lead science and mission operations for Webb.

    “I am very pleased that we’re at this point since it is now possible for the broader science community to begin selecting targets and designing observations for the Early Release Science program and the Cycle 1 call for proposals, which will be issued this fall,” he added.

    Observing time on Webb is scheduled in a series of cycles. Cycle 1 will encompass about 8,700 hours, or nearly a year. For their dedicated work on the project, the Guaranteed Time Observers were awarded 10 percent of the total JWST observing time in the prime mission. To maximize the overall Webb scientific return, the GTO projects will be scheduled earlier in the mission, and are expected to be completed within the first two years of telescope operations.

    The observations announced today will help the broader scientific community plan their proposals for observations to be made during Cycle 1. A call for proposals for regular Cycle 1 observations will be issued later this year.

    Webb is designed to complement and extend the scientific capabilities of other NASA missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland will conduct Webb science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

    [First, Webb’s launch as been delayed by the need to launch BepiColumbo is a critical time period. https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/from-spaceflight-insider-james-webb-space-telescope-may-be-delayed-again/ .

    Second. no one really knows what will happen when Webb is launched. The planning and testing might be the longest and most arduous for any spacecraft. But is has all been done on the ground by the builders and NASA.]

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 12:55 pm on August 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/ESA/CSA Webb   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “James Webb Space Telescope may be delayed again” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    August 5th, 2017
    Joe Latrell

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    The much delayed and over budget next-generation James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has suffered another setback prior to its journey to the launch pad: the October 2018 launch may be in conflict with Europe’s BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Both spacecraft are to be flown on Ariane 5 boosters, but the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, cannot support two flights in the same month. BepiColombo has priority due to the tight launch window to reach Mercury. This will result in the JWST having its launch date pushed back to 2019 at the earliest.

    The James Webb Space Telescope

    The JWST is a space-based infrared telescope. To operate properly, it needs to maintain a temperature of 37 kelvins (–236 °C / –393 °F). In order to achieve this when in space, the telescope relies on a large tennis court sized sunshield to protect it from external heat and light sources, such as the Sun as well as the Earth and Moon.

    Light gathered from the segmented 6.5-meter (21-foot) diameter mirror is directed to the four science instruments: Fine Guidance Sensor / Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS), Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), and Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec). Due to the requirement of the MIRI to operate at an even lower temperature than the other science instruments, it will utilize a cryocooler to decrease its temperature to less than 7 kelvins (–266 °C / –447 °F).

    While smaller than telescopes here on Earth, the JWST is the most powerful space telescope ever constructed and is the science successor to the Hubble telescope.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Originally projected to cost $1.6 billion, the telescope’s price tag has ballooned to over $8.8 billion. Several factors, from delays in choosing a launch vehicle to management issues, contributed to the soaring costs. Additionally, the vehicle proved harder to construct than originally envisioned. For example, during vibration testing, the spacecraft experienced several anomalies that required NASA engineers to stop the test. After analysis and modifications, the tests resumed and the JWST was given a clean bill of health.

    Despite the technical issues and threats of cancellation, the project continued and the cost estimates grew. A launch delay into 2019 will only add to that dollar figure.

    The BepiColombo mission

    ESA/JAXA BepiColombo


    ESA/JAXA Elements of the BepiColombo Mercury Composite Spacecraft. From left to right: Mercury Transfer Module (MTM), Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), and Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

    BepiColombo is a mission to explore the planet Mercury that is being conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The mission is actually two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The objective is a comprehensive study of Mercury, including the planet’s surface, magnetic field, and interior structure.

    The MPO is a solar-powered spacecraft carrying 11 scientific instruments. These instruments include laser altimeters, spectrometers, magnetometers, as well as several cameras. It has a mass of 1,150 kilograms (2,540 pounds) and is capable of producing 1,000 watts of power for onboard instruments.

    The MMO has a mass of 285 kilograms (628 pounds) and carries five scientific payloads. Built mostly by Japan, this spacecraft will study plasma particles including high-energy ions and electrons emanating from the planet. A third spacecraft, the Mercury Surface Element (MSE), a small lander craft, was removed due to budgetary issues.

    The two Mercury spacecraft are scheduled to arrive at the planet in 2025 after performing numerous flybys: one at Earth, two at Venus, and six at Mercury. The craft must launch sometime between October 5, 2018, and November 28, 2018, to reach the planet as scheduled.

    Both missions as slated to fly on the Ariane 5 booster. The 52-meter (171-foot) vehicle is capable of lifting over 10,500 kilograms (23,100 pounds) to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

    JWST chills in Chamber A

    Currently, the JWST is undergoing low-temperature checks at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Chamber A. The temperature of the chamber is steadily being reduced to approximately 20 kelvins (–253 °C / –424 °F) – the same temperature that the JWST will be when operating in space. These tests will validate that the JWST instruments can operate properly at the extremely low temperatures.

    Unlike Hubble, the JWST will be positioned at the Earth-Sun Lagrange point (L2) which is 1,500,000 kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth. That location is currently beyond NASA’s manned space capabilities; therefore, precluding the JWST from being serviced on orbit.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
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