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NASA Reveals Webb Telescope’s First Images of Unseen Universe

in Astronomy 303 views

The dawn of a new era in astronomy is here as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

The full set of the telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data, which uncover a collection of cosmic features elusive until now, released Tuesday to an eager and adoring public, some of whom have waited thirty years to see them.

“Today, we present humanity with a groundbreaking new view of the cosmos from the James Webb Space Telescope – a view the world has never seen before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“These images, including the deepest infrared view of our universe that has ever been taken, show us how Webb will help to uncover the answers to questions we don’t even yet know to ask; questions that will help us better understand our universe and humanity’s place within it.”

Infrared vision, something the Hubble Space Telescope can’t do, is necessary to see the earliest, i.e. farthest away scenes of the universe.

“The Webb team’s incredible success is a reflection of what NASA does best. We take dreams and turn them into reality for the benefit of humanity. I can’t wait to see the discoveries that we uncover—the team is just getting started!”

Indeed Webb is already booked for more than 6,000 hours of research time across dozens of different projects by various astronomers to look at everything from “high red-shift quasars,” to exoplanets, to asteroids in our own solar system.

Webb’s first observations tell the story of the hidden universe through every phase of cosmic history—from neighboring planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.

“It took decades of drive and perseverance to get us here, and I am immensely proud of the Webb team,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “These first images show us how much we can accomplish when we come together behind a shared goal, to solve the cosmic mysteries that connect us all. It’s a stunning glimpse of the insights yet to come.”

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NASA Develops ‘Lunar Backpack’ to Aid New Moon Explorers

in Uncategorized 199 views

Imagine a mountaineering expedition in a wholly uncharted environment, where the hikers had the ability to generate a real-time 3D map of the terrain.

NASA researchers and their partners have developed a remote-sensing mapping system set to aid explorers in the most isolated wilderness imaginable: the airless wastes at the South Pole of the Moon.

The Kinematic Navigation and Cartography Knapsack (KNaCK) is a mobile lidar scanner—a remote sensing method that uses light detection and ranging laser light to measure range.

Donned like a hiker’s backpack, it makes use of an innovative type of lidar called frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) lidar in order to provide Doppler velocity and range for millions of measurement points per second. These measurement points instantly create a real-time navigation system, delivering to the explorer a 3D “point cloud” or high-resolution map of the surrounding terrain.

Think of it as a superpowered version of laser range finders used by surveyors or the highly sensitive proximity alarms that help smart cars avoid collisions, said planetary scientist Dr. Michael Zanetti, who leads the KNaCK project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Basically, the sensor is a surveying tool for both navigation and science mapping, able to create ultra-high-resolution 3D maps at centimeter-level precision and give them a rich scientific context,” Zanetti said. “It also will help ensure the safety of astronauts and rover vehicles in a GPS-denied environment such as the Moon, identifying actual distances to far-off landmarks and showing explorers in real time how far they’ve come and how far is left to go to reach their destination.”

Probing shadow lands

That’s a key challenge as Artemis-era explorers prepare to undertake the first modern missions to the Moon, and the first ever to its South Pole. The Sun never rises more than 3 degrees above the lunar horizon there, leaving much of the terrain in deep shadow. That makes distances to various points of interest difficult to eyeball.

Initiated in 2020 with funding by NASA’s Early Career Initiative, the KNaCK project has partnered with Torch Technologies Inc. of Huntsville to develop the backpack prototype and associated navigation algorithms that permit accurate mapping without GPS.

Using KNaCK during rover excursions and when traveling on foot, explorers could precisely map the topography of the landscape, including deep ravines, mountains, and caves. Lidar even works in pitch blackness, relieving astronauts of the need to haul cumbersome lighting rigs everywhere they go.

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NASA Launches James Webb Telescope With its Giant Sunshield to See First Galaxies, Distant Worlds

in Technology 373 views

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope officially launched on December 25. Its 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 us forward into the future,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our universe. I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”

Ground teams began receiving telemetry data from Webb about five minutes after launch.

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