Sunday January 21, 2018

NASA’s James Webb space telescope comes closer to ‘reaching the stars’

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Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia
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Washington, May 2, 2017: The James Webb space telescope, designed to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, has come a step closer to “reaching the stars” as it has completed its environmental testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA said the Webb telescope will now be shipped to its Johnson Space Centre in Houston for end-to-end optical testing in a vacuum at its extremely cold operating temperatures.

Then it will continue on its journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing prior to launch in 2018.

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After undergoing rigorous environmental tests simulating the stresses of its rocket launch, the Webb telescope team at Goddard analysed the results from this critical optical test and compared it to the pre-test measurements.

The team concluded that the mirrors passed the test with the optical system unscathed.

“The Webb telescope is about to embark on its next step in reaching the stars as it has successfully completed its integration and testing at Goddard,” Bill Ochs, NASA’s Webb telescope project manager, said in a statement on Monday.

Rocket launches create high levels of vibration and noise that rattle spacecraft and telescopes.

At Goddard, engineers tested the Webb telescope in vibration and acoustics test facilities that simulate the launch environment to ensure that functionality is not impaired by the rigorous ride on a rocket into space.

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Before and after these environmental tests took place, optical engineers set up an interferometre, the main device used to measure the shape of the Webb telescope’s mirror.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s most advanced space observatory designed to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, from discovering the first stars and galaxies that formed after the big bang to studying the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

It is a joint project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. (IANS)

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Scientists spot massive ice deposits on Mars

Recent observations by MRO's ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

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Scientists found layers of ice on the surface of Mars. Wikimedia Commons
  • Recently, scientists have found layers of ice on the Martian land.
  • Scientists think this ice might be a useful source of water for future humans.
  • The researchers had researched 8 locations on the surface of Mars.

Scientists have unearthed thick and massive deposits of ice in some regions on Mars.

The images taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showed the three-dimensional structure of massive ice deposits on Mars.

The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more and appear to contain distinct layers.

It extending downward from depths as shallow as 1 to 2 meters below the surface, which could preserve a record of Mars’ past climate, the researchers noted in the journal Science.

This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS
This ice which was found can help scientists understand the climate history of Mars. IANS

“We expect the vertical structure of Martian ice-rich deposits to preserve a record of ice deposition and past climate,” said Colin M. Dundas, from the US Geological Survey.

“They might even be a useful source of water for future human exploration of the red planet,” Dundas added.

The researchers investigated eight locations on Mars and found thick deposits cover broad regions of the Martian mid-latitudes with a smooth mantle.

However, erosion in these regions creates scarps that expose the internal structure of the mantle.

The scarps are actively retreating because of sublimation of the exposed water ice.

The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA
The layers of ice can be used as water source by future humans on Mars, VOA

The ice deposits likely originated as snowfall during Mars’ high-obliquity periods and have now compacted into massive, fractured, and layered ice.

Previous researchers have revealed that the Red Planet harbours subsurface water ice.

Recent observations by MRO’s ground-penetrating Shallow Radar instrument revealed a buried ice layer that covers more ground than the state of New Mexico.

NASA’s Phoenix lander had also dug up some ice near the Martian north pole in 2008, however, it is not clear if that is part of the big sheet. IANS