If you’re a nerd like me, you’ve been following the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. Webb is the largest, most powerful, and most ambitious telescope ever launched into space. Indeed, Webb is one of the most complex machines ever launched into space, period. As I write this, the team responsible for Webb has successfully deployed several critical components on the telescope. There are many more steps before Webb is fully-functional, but things are going very well. Go Webb Go!
Webb will soon reach its final orbit around the Sun. Then it will be about a million miles from the Earth, or about 4 times the distance to the Moon. That will allow it to operate at the ultra-cold temperatures required to detect light in the infrared portion of the spectrum. This light can only be studied in outer space because our atmosphere blocks the view for Earth-bound instruments. Far away from Earth, Webb will see unfathomable distances to the first galaxies that formed after the big bang. Webb will also analyze the atmospheres of Earth-like planets orbiting distant stars. Hopefully, we’ll be able to determine if simple molecules like oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane, etc. exist on other planets. That’s pretty big stuff!
It will be six months before the commissioning process for Webb is complete. Then we’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular images ever created of the Cosmos. BUT! In the meantime, here is an outer space image of my own. In case you didn’t know, this is the Rosette Nebula. Located in the night sky near the constellation Orion, the Rosette Nebula is an exquisite astronomical object. Light from the Rosette travels more than 5000 years before reaching us. Consequently, this image shows the Rosette as it existed at about the time the Pharaohs began to rule Egypt. Wrap your head around that for a minute. 🙂
At approximately five times the area of a full Moon, the Rosette occupies a surprisingly large expanse of the night sky. We just can’t see it. To create this image, I used a telescope equipped with narrowband filters and about 24 hours of accumulated imaging time. I can describe more about how I created this image in a future post. Let me know if you’re interested.
The telescope is located on my driveway in Knoxville, Tennessee.