The James Webb Space Telescope team is about to reveal the first science images. The countdown clock is set for July 12. There are several ways you can view the images. This NASA blog post lists them with links to get you there. Set your calendar.
Fairfield is a city in southeast Iowa with a population of 9416 based on the 2020 census. Like many places, it has a varied and interesting history. Higher education played a large role in that history. Fairfield was home to Parsons College from 1875 to 1973. Enrollment peaked at 5000 in 1966. Soon after, the school and it’s president, Millard G. Roberts, got caught up in questionable activities. Life magazine published a critical article. The school lost accreditation and he was asked to resign. Enrollment dropped and the school closed in 1973 bankrupt and $14 million in debt.
The following year the campus was purchased by Maharishi International University. It promotes consciousness-based education which includes Transcendental Meditation technique in its practices. Full potential of the individual, reaching economic goals, living in harmony with the environment, and bringing spiritual fulfillment and happiness to humanity are some of the goals of MIU. Follow links to find out more about MIU. This blog post is not an attempt to promote or endorse in any way.
Our recent visit to Fairfield and the campus was to visit their Maharishi Vedic Observatory. This aerial image shows it is not what one thinks of when describing an observatory. There is no large telescope dome. Instead, it is made up of 10 solar and celestial measurement instruments, or sundials, and a collection of inner circles.
The skies cleared as evening approached. The Moon was aligned with Earth and the Sun. Their syzygy at 9:30 pm CDT brought the Moon into the umbra of the Earth’s shadow. Desktop software gave a simulated view like this. The faint inner circle is the umbra. The larger circle is the penumbra.
My camera was mounted on a tripod and set for capturing images about every 15 minutes starting at 9:30. The images were cropped to place the umbra in nearly the same place in each image. That placement highlighted the movement of the Moon over the 15 minute time periods between photos.Continue reading
During April 2022, the morning predawn sky had Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter in various alignments. In the last days of April, Jupiter approached Venus and closed the angular distance between them as seen from our perspective on Earth. This short video shows the locations of the planets as time is stepped forward from 27 April to 4 May. Notice how Earth, Venus, and Jupiter are nearly along the same line of sight at the middle of that time interval.
I hoped to get an image of Venus and Jupiter on 30 April when they were at their closest angular distance of about 0.3˚. Our Moon’s diameter in the sky is only 0.5˚. But, cloudy skies during that time prevented any sight of the pair. Today, 4 May, the sky was finally clear. I got a good image of Jupiter well past and to the right of Venus. This composite aligns today’s image with 3 previous images.
I assumed someone in the world had a clear sky on 30 April and got an image of the two planets together in the same field of view of a telescope eyepiece. I check daily for interesting astronomical images on Spaceweather Gallery. There I found an image by Particio Leon in Santiago, Chile, taken at 11:27 am local time. They displayed differences in size, phase and surface brightness. He used a Canon Canon EOS Rebel T7i through his 8″ telescope with settings of f/6, 1/320s, and ISO100. I took the liberty of rotating his image to simulate my view from the northern hemisphere if I had been able to witness it myself.
Webb’s mirrors now direct fully focused light from space down into each instrument. This alignment allows each instrument is capture images. For the next two months, work will be done to commission each of the four scientific instruments. Performance appears better than the engineering team’s most optimistic predictions.
The NASA blog posted 28 April 2022 by Thaddeus Cesari describes the significance of this milestone in greater detail. Images in the post can be enlarged to show the great detail achieved by each instrument as well as the Fine Guidance Sensor. They are impressive. In addition, this one minute video from the blog summarizes the accomplishments.