NASA to Set Up Independent Study on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is commissioning a study team to start early in the fall to examine unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) – that is, observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena – from a scientific perspective. The study will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.

The limited number of observations of UAPs currently makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events. Unidentified phenomena in the atmosphere are of interest for both national security and air safety. Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step to identifying or mitigating such phenomena, which aligns with one of NASA’s goals to ensure the safety of aircraft. There is no evidence UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin.

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First Images From NASA’s Webb Space Telescope to be Released July 12

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will release its first full-color images and spectroscopic data on July 12, 2022. As the largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space, Webb has been going through a six-month period of preparation before it can begin science work, calibrating its instruments to its space environment and aligning its mirrors. This careful process, not to mention years of new technology development and mission planning, has built up to the first images and data: a demonstration of Webb at its full power, ready to begin its science mission and unfold the infrared universe.

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NASA’s Webb Program Director Named to TIME100 List

Greg Robinson, program director for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters, gives a brief interview on NASA Television as he and the launch team monitor the countdown to Webb’s launch Dec. 25, 2021, at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Webb is a large infrared telescope with a 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror. The observatory will study every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. (Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA HQ PR) — The head of NASA’s largest space science mission has been named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Program Director Gregory Robinson was named to the TIME100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential leaders. Robinson shares this year’s recognition with other TIME100 honorees such as President Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey.

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Webb’s Coldest Instrument Reaches Operating Temperature

MIRI, the mid-infrared camera and spectrograph (left), was installed in the science payload module of the James Webb Space Telescope (right) on 29 April 2013 at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn)

PARIS (ESA PR) — With help from a cryocooler, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument has dropped down to just a few degrees above the lowest temperature matter can reach and is ready for calibration.

The James Webb Space Telescope will see the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang, but to do that its instruments first need to get cold – really cold. On 7 April, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – a joint development by ESA and NASA – reached its final operating temperature below 7 kelvins (minus 266 degrees Celsius).

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Cosmic Milestone: NASA Confirms 5,000 Exoplanets

What do planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, look like? A variety of possibilities are shown in this illustration. Scientists discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s. As of 2022, the tally stands at just over 5,000 confirmed exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The count of confirmed exoplanets just ticked past the 5,000 mark, representing a 30-year journey of discovery led by NASA space telescopes.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Not so long ago, we lived in a universe with only a small number of known planets, all of them orbiting our Sun. But a new raft of discoveries marks a scientific high point: More than 5,000 planets are now confirmed to exist beyond our solar system.

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NASA’s Webb Reaches Alignment Milestone, Optics Working Successfully

While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up. At this stage of Webb’s mirror alignment, known as “fine phasing,” each of the primary mirror segments have been adjusted to produce one unified image of the same star using only the NIRCam instrument. This image of the star, which is called 2MASS J17554042+6551277, uses a red filter to optimize visual contrast. (Credits: NASA/STScI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Following the completion of critical mirror alignment steps, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team expects that Webb’s optical performance will be able to meet or exceed the science goals the observatory was built to achieve.

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Webb Mirror Alignment Continues Successfully

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Webb continues on its path to becoming a focused observatory. The team has successfully worked through the second and third out of seven total phases of mirror alignment. With the completion of these phases, called Segment Alignment and Image Stacking, the team will now begin making smaller adjustments to the positions of Webb’s mirrors.

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Incoming! SpaceX Falcon 9 Stage Heads for Crash on the Moon

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The Moon is set to gain one more crater. A leftover SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage will impact the lunar surface in early March, marking the first time that a human-made debris item unintentionally reaches our natural satellite.

In 2015 the Falcon 9 placed NOAA’s DSCOVR climate observatory around the L1 Lagrange point, one of five such gravitationally-stable points between Earth and the Sun. Having reached L1, around 1.5 million km from Earth, the mission’s upper stage ended up pointed away from Earth into interplanetary space.

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Photons Incoming: Webb Team Begins Aligning the Telescope

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — This week, the three-month process of aligning the telescope began – and over the last day, Webb team members saw the first photons of starlight that traveled through the entire telescope and were detected by the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument. This milestone marks the first of many steps to capture images that are at first unfocused and use them to slowly fine-tune the telescope. This is the very beginning of the process, but so far the initial results match expectations and simulations.

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Orbital Insertion Burn a Success, Webb Arrives at L2

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Today, at 2 p.m. EST, Webb fired its onboard thrusters for nearly five minutes (297 seconds) to complete the final postlaunch course correction to Webb’s trajectory. This mid-course correction burn inserted Webb toward its final orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth.

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NASA to Discuss Webb’s Arrival at Final Destination, Next Steps on Monday

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Scientists and engineers operating NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will answer questions about the mission’s latest milestones in a NASA Science Live broadcast at 3 p.m. EST Monday, Jan. 24, followed by a media teleconference at 4 p.m.

The broadcast will air live online on the NASA Science Live website, as well as YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

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Mirror, Mirror…On Its Way!

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

James Webb Space Telescope
NASA Mission Update
Jan. 13, 2022

With major deployments complete, Webb continues its journey to its final halo orbit around L2. In the meantime, there are several smaller deployments in the next couple of weeks, which constitute the beginning of a several-month phase of aligning the telescope’s optics. This week, we have started the process of moving the mirror segments (all primary plus secondary) out of their stowed launch positions. For more details, here is Marshall Perrin from the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of the Webb Mission Operations Center:

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Cheops Reveals a Rugby Ball-shaped Exoplanet

Artist impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s exoplanet mission Cheops has revealed that an exoplanet orbiting its host star within a day has a deformed shape more like that of a rugby ball than a sphere. This is the first time that the deformation of an exoplanet has been detected, offering new insights into the internal structure of these star-hugging planets.

The planet, known as WASP-103b is located in the constellation of Hercules. It has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is about 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than the Sun.

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Webb Begins Its Months-Long Mirror Alignment

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

James Webb Space Telescope
NASA Mission Update
Jan. 12, 2022

Webb has begun the detailed process of fine-tuning its individual optics into one huge, precise telescope.

Engineers first commanded actuators – 126 devices that will move and shape the primary mirror segments, and six devices that will position the secondary mirror – to verify that all are working as expected after launch. The team also commanded actuators that guide Webb’s fine steering mirror to make minor movements, confirming they are working as expected. The fine steering mirror is critical to the process of image stabilization.

Ground teams have now begun instructing the primary mirror segments and secondary mirror to move from their stowed-for-launch configuration, off of snubbers that kept them snug and safe from rattling from vibration. These movements will take at least ten days, after which engineers can begin the three-month process of aligning the segments to perform as a single mirror.