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The James Webb Space Telescope as it will appear in orbit. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October 2018. JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide and will study every phase in the history of the universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth to the evolution of the solar system. John Mather is the senior project scientist for the Webb Telescope.

EYES TO THE SKY: Equinox tomorrow. Nobel Laureate to address Northeast Astronomy Forum

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By Monday, Mar 19, 2018 Learning 3

March 19 – April 1, 2018

Where does the celestial equator intersect your horizon? No matter what your latitude is, it intersects your horizon at points due east and due west. Image courtesy EarthSky.org

Mount Washington — Spring begins tomorrow when the Sun crosses the celestial equator from the southern to the northern hemisphere; the precise moment is 12:15 p.m. EDT. Take part in the Vernal Equinox by observing sunrise due east at 6:56 a.m., sunset due west at 7:05 p.m. and the Sun at its highest point at midday, 1:05 p.m. EDT.

While the Sun’s heightening arc heralds the new season, a delicate crescent moon above the setting Sun this evening and, in the coming days, begins a new moon cycle. Find planet Venus below and to the right of the moon. With the aid of binoculars, it might be possible to see Mercury slightly above and to the right of the goddess planet today. Mercury is fast disappearing from the evening sky.

The waxing moon reaches full phase at 8:37am on Saturday the 31st. The second full moon of the month, it is the second Blue Moon of 2018. Each year, the Passover holiday begins on the evening after the first full moon that follows the spring equinox and Easter begins on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the Equinox. This year, the two holidays are as close as possible on our calendars: Passover begins on March 31 and Easter on April 1.

Earth Hour, a worldwide movement for the protection of planet Earth, convenes for one hour a year: Wherever you are, all are invited to focus on shared reverence for the Earth and how to further efforts to care for our home planet. A call to action and sense of community is promoted by the simple act of, in unison, shutting off electric lights from 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. this coming Saturday, the 24th. Please go to https://www.earthhour.org/ to learn more.

Nobel Prize laureate John Mather displays radio maps made by the COBE satellite. The satellite discovered variations in the universe’s background radiation, helping to refine the Big Bang theory. Photo: Roger Ressmeyer

Always a profoundly moving experience for this denizen of the cosmos, the annual Northeast Astronomy Forum, billed as the “World’s Largest Astronomy and Space Expo,” takes place April 21 and 22 at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. In advance of a detailed schedule, please see the illustrations, captions and Resources section to become acquainted with the work of NEAF’s headlined presenter, Nobel laureate John C. Mather, in addition to the rest of the line-up.

NEAF 2018 is April 21 & 22. Video introduction from last year’s NEAF:


NEAF program lead presenter, John Mather

Stephen Hawking obituary – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/obituaries/stephen-hawking-dead.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Opportunities to Participate

March 24, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. EARTH HOUR – https://www.earthhour.org/

April 21 & 22 – Northeast Astronomy Forum, Suffern, NY – http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html

April 19 & 20 – Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference, Suffern, NY – http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html

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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Virginia Barton says:

    I saw the picture prior to even having read the title and immediately thought: what a beautiful painting! And only then I read the inscription saying it was actually radio waves. Amazing!

  2. Holly Steinberg says:

    I love the wealth of information you share in your column Thank you

  3. Melanie says:

    The angular resolution of a telescope – which is a measure of the finest detail measurable (e.g., in images) – increases linearly with the mirror diameter and decreases linearly with the wavelength the telescope is designed to use, in the case of the JWST, near and mid-infrared light. This is one of the main reasons it uses such a large (6.5 m) mirror. And when was the last time you designed a fully functioning telescope for space, anyway?

    Using an *array* of smaller mirrors to achieve the angular resolution of a larger *single* mirror is a technique called interferometry, which is how telescopes at radio and sub/millimeter wavelengths reach such high angular resolution. But this approach is currently far too complicated and difficult to be practical for a telescope at near and mid-infrared wavelengths. And if you think it’s difficult to design, build, and deploy one telescope with a single (segmented) 6.5 m mirror, you simply have no idea how much tougher it would be to do this for an array of (smaller) telescopes in space.

    Based on my person research with http://ultius.pro/ Id say the JWST is an complex and precise scientific instrument; one that will revolutionize the fields of planetary, stellar, and extra-galactic astronomy. The engineers at NASA will only get one chance to get it right with this beast. So let them do their job and fix the problems that *always* come up in scientific instruments of such complexity.

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