NASA’s Webb Reaches Alignment Milestone, Optics Working Successfully

For those who might be more technically inclined, you should watch the video. This is fascinating stuff. I have been following this project for a while now.

The Webb Space Telescope Will Rewrite Cosmic History. If It Works.: Quanta Magazine

Collage illustration showing the Webb telescope as a blossoming flower surrounded by stars, galaxies, planets and constellations.

Image from Quanta Magazine

Until I read this article, I did not recognize how much the study of Cosmology and the history of the Universe is still in its infancy. There can be theories about the nature of the Universe, and about how things came to be, but, at the same time, it gets more and more difficult to establish the facts about time closer to the Big Bang through observations. With newer tools, newer discoveries are being made with fair regularity. Many of these discoveries have happened during my lifetime, but I have failed to recognize their significance, for example, the discovery of the existence of exoplanets on other galaxies, the fact that the Universe is not in a steady state and is growing in size, etc… Since I am not an expert in the field, I have the tendency to take things for granted.

If the James Webb Telescope works, we will be able to see earlier into the life of the Universe than ever before. Read the article to understand the details. Energy is still reaching us from earlier on in time from the farthest reaches of the Universe. We just need to be able to detect it with our tools. We still do not have the capability to see things that are close to the Big Bang. Hubble revealed a lot about the early Universe. Hopefully this telescope gets us even closer. This is fascinating stuff.

The article talks about the long developmental history of the telescope, and about its design and the nature of its operation. The challenges include design of this large piece of equipment so that it can be launched into space by rockets of today, a design that can detect extremely low levels of energy from distant galaxies, etc… This is probably the most sophisticated and precise instrument that has ever been built by human hands. Its cost approaches 10 billion dollars, about the cost of building the US Navy’s aircraft carriers today. If even one element of the implementation and deployment goes wrong, we have a problem that would be very difficult to recover from. When deployed about 1 million miles out in space, there is no physical access to the telescope. (That was a lifeline we had with the Hubble telescope.) This is the cost of discovery today.

The first possible launch date for the James Webb telescope is December 22nd of this year. The telescope is in Kourou, French Guiana, at the Ariane launch site. It has been fueled up..

It is a long article, but well worth it, I thought…

This is a video from the the article.

Why String Theory Persists — Despite the Knotty Physics | Space

The author of this article has produced some very entertaining and informative videos that help make the ideas associated with string theory accessible to people like me, people who know very little about astrophysics.  If you watch the first video in the article below, you may be sucked in, just like I was.

via Why string theory persists — despite the knotty physics | Space

You can also view other videos that have been produced as a part of this series.


Meanwhile, 55 Million Light Years Away

A black hole spins!

Watch the video!  Young people like Katie Bouman are helping us see things that have never been seen in the past.  They have now managed to obtain the first picture of a black hole!  This video is from a couple of years back.

via Katie Bouman: How to take a picture of a black hole | TED Talk

PS.  I got the link for this video from a friend.

A Brave and Startling Truth: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Maya Angelou’s Stunning Humanist Poem That Flew to Space, Inspired by Carl Sagan – Brain Pickings

I recommend that you read, or listen to, the entire poem.


When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.”


via A Brave and Startling Truth: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Maya Angelou’s Stunning Humanist Poem That Flew to Space, Inspired by Carl Sagan – Brain Pickings

If you did not watch the video of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, you can do it here.

A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth – Scientific American

Consider this thought.  If life on earth as we know it is going to be destroyed by some extraterrestrial event some time in the future, it is possible that such an event has already happened.

via A Nearby Neutron Star Collision Could Cause Calamity on Earth – Scientific American

When 2 Black Holes Dance, Space Quivers : NPR

Albert Einstein didn’t like them.

To him, black holes were a bit of an embarrassment, as they compromised his dream of a “rational” nature, that is, natural phenomena that we could describe and quantify with the usual methods of science. According to this view, good scientific theories shouldn’t generate absurd (read: “irrational”) results.

via Black Holes Orbiting Around Each Other Send Off Waves, : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR