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01/18/2022 – Ephemeris – James Webb Telescope Status

January 18, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 5:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 6:07 this evening.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the Webb Space Telescope as of Sunday night when I’m recording this program, the technicians are moving the 18 mirror segments of the primary mirror away from their stowed position for liftoff to near their final position. That’s moving each of them forward about a half inch by tiny increments. Then each will be tilted to concentrate each mirror into a single image and focus it. The mirrors can be tilted and also change the curvature of the mirror segment a bit. This is what takes the time, about 5 months. All the teeny tiny adjustments take time, especially with a nearly eight and a half second two-way light-time between the Earth and the telescope.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

MirrorAlignmentTracker for 1/17/22

Mirror Alignment Tracker for January 17, 2022. It looks like most mirrors are about 3 millimeters from their final position. Shown are 19 mirrors, the center on, labeled SM is the secondary mirror, out in front of the primary mirror segments. Mirrors A3 and A6 have not moved forward very much. From their position, I assume that’s intentional. Credit: NASA.

As of yesterday (January 17, 2022) the James Webb Space Telescope has journeyed to 91% of the distance to L2 (Lagrange point 2), and its speed has dropped to 577 miles per hour (929 kilometers per hour). They do not want to overshoot the velocity to drop into a halo orbit of L2. By next week’s report, the telescope should have entered its halo orbit of L2.

01/11/2022 – Ephemeris – The James Webb Space Telescope has been unfolded but more work is needed

January 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 5 minutes, setting at 5:23, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 3:41 tomorrow morning.

As of Sunday night, when I’m recording this program, the James Webb Space Telescope is nearly 700 thousand miles (1,100 million kilometers) from Earth, more than two thirds the way to the L2 Lagrange point., and slowing down. It doesn’t want to overshoot the mark. The telescope is fully deployed except for the alignment of all the mirrors. 18 of which make up the 6.4 meter primary mirror. They have to be adjusted to act like a monolithic mirror with millionths of an inch tolerance. That may take 5 months. Sometime around the end of that we may get to see the First Light image from the telescope, an image of something other than the calibration stars they were using for the previous months to get all the mirrors aligned.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

James Webb Space Telescope temporatures 16 days after launch

James Webb Space Telescope temperatures 16 days after launch. It looks like the cold side temperatures are dropping by 1 or 2 degrees Celsius a day. Credit: James Webb Tracker by The Launch Pad YouTube Channel. Data from NASA.

 

12/28/2021 – Ephemeris – The James Webb Telescope is on its way to L2

December 28, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:09, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:19. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:18 tomorrow morning.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched Christmas morning and is heading out past the Moon’s orbit. It was launched from the European Space Agency’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America, as part of their contribution to the project. It will orbit a point called Lagrange Point 2, or L2 for short, over four times the Moon’s distance in a direction opposite of the Sun. It will take the telescope 29 days to unfold itself. First order of business was to unfold the solar panels to obtain power, then to deploy its high gain antenna for communications with the Earth. Next to begin to deploy a 5 layer, tennis court sized sun shield. After that, the telescope will be unfolded.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The last view of Webb as it separated from the Ariane 5 launch vehicle

The last view of Webb as it separated from the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Credit: NASA.

12/23/2021 – Ephemeris – The James Webb Space Telescope to launch Real Soon Now

December 23, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, December 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon, 3 days before last quarter, will rise at 9:23 this evening.

One of the problems in recording a week’s worth of programs at once is: one, not having the freshest news; and two, talking about an imminent space launch that gets canceled a day or two before scheduled launch. As of Sunday night, when I’m recording this, the often delayed James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to be launched at 7:20 (am EST) tomorrow morning* from the European Space Agency’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America. It will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket into an orbit that will take the telescope a million miles away, opposite of the direction of the Sun to a gravitational somewhat stable L2 Lagrange point, which it will lazily orbit.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

* See? Delayed again, this time for bad weather. The launch is rescheduled for not earlier than 7:20 am EST Christmas Day. This is why I hate to talk about spacecraft launches before they happen, except in a general way.

Addendum

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2

James Webb Space Telescope trajectory to L2 with some milestones of deployment. “ISIM” stands for Integrated Scientific Instruments Module. Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

Full scale model of the JWST at Goddard Space Flight Center

Full scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope at Goddard Space Flight Center. Note its scale, with the people who worked on it the foreground.

James WebbSpace Telescope, folded

James Webb Space Telescope, folded and ready to be placed atop the Ariane 5 Rocket. After launch and on its way to L2 begins “29 Days of Terror” as various parts of the telescope deploy, including the five layer, tennis court sized, sun shade. Any failure could doom the 10 billion dollar telescope.

03/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The aging Hubble Space Telescope survived its latest glitch

March 18, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, March 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 7:53, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:47. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 1:21 tomorrow morning.

On Sunday the 7th the Hubble Space Telescope, arguably the most famous telescope there is entered safe mode. Whenever a spacecraft finds an unexpected problem it stops what it is doing, orients itself, so its solar panels face the Sun if it can. It may or may not phone home. And waits for instructions. The last time Hubble experienced a glitch that forced a safe mode was 2018. Then it took 3 weeks to get it back to normal operations. This time it was 4 days. However, the ground controllers are still checking out one of its cameras, while the others are working again. Hubble is over 30 years old. It’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to finally be launched this October on the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope after a servicing mission. Credit: NASA.

Full scale model of the JWST at Goddard Space Flight Center

Full scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope at Goddard Space Flight Center. Note its scale with the people in front of it.

I’ll be covering the James Webb Space Telescope in more detail as we count down to its launch.