News / Science & Technology

    NASA to Launch Telescope That Will See Into the Past

    The first six flight-ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama
    The first six flight-ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

    Multimedia

    Light from distant galaxies, billions of light years away from us, is so faint that it shifts from the visible spectrum ino the infrared segment and becomes heat. It can be detected only by instruments cooled to almost absolute zero. The U.S. space agency NASA is building a new space telescope that will be cool in both senses of the word.

    In the "clean room" of  NASA's Goddard Space Center, outside Washington, engineers are building the new infrared space telescope named after NASA's second director James Webb.  They hope that when deployed in 2014. it will help them look many billions of light years into the past.

    The deputy senior project scientist for the telescope, Jonathan Gardner, says its 6.5-meter-wide (21-foot-wide) mirror will be able to detect extremely faint infrared signals, because it will be kept at a very cold temperature, close to absolute zero (minus 459 degrees F).  A large radiator screen, the size of a tennis court, will shield it from the warmth of the sun and earth.

    But how will the scientists be able to look into the past?  

    "We can see back in time because light takes time to get from there to here.  So, as we look further and further away, it takes longer and longer for the light to get from where it's emitted to here and we can actually see backwards in time.  And if we look far enough away, we're actually looking back to when the universe was much younger than it is today, when the light was emitted from these galaxies.  We're looking at the universe when it was younger and we're looking back most of the way to the Big Bang," Gardner explained.

    Gardner says scientists want to know when the first galaxies were formed.  What did they look like?  What were their features?  How were the stars born?  Many are also hoping to find something we don't yet even know exists.

    The telescope will be equipped with three infrared cameras, more sensitive than ever before.  But its most interesting parts are the special gold-coated mirrors that form the big primary mirror.

    "The primary mirror is made up of 18 hexagonal segments, as you can see on the model.  Each of these segments is supported by actuators which can move.  So, during the lifetime of the mission, when it's in orbit, we can send the commands to move these mirrors and that way we can constantly keep them in alignment, in a common focus," he said.

    Jonathan Gardner says the new telescope will be available to scientists around the world, whose projects will be chosen according to their scientific value.

    "We will ask for proposals from astronomers.  Any astronomer, at any university, in any country can write a proposal for what they want to do with the telescope.  The committee, probably about a hundred astronomers, will consider these proposals, and they will read all the proposals and choose the very best science that will be done that year," Gardner stated.

    Gardner says the process makes sure that the telescope is doing the best science it can, answering the most important, relevant, current questions.

    The new telescope is scheduled to be launched in 2014 and is expected to function around 10 years.  The life expectancy is limited by the quantity of fuel in its booster jets, used for periodical adjustment of its position in space.  The telescope will be stationed a million-and-a-half kilometers, or 932,000 miles, from earth, so astronauts will not be able to visit and replenish its fuel.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora