Crab Nebula the Remains of an Exploded Star
From our little perch we feel the last tips of sunbeams trailing across our faces and away into the sky. As the orange glow subsists on the horizon we must resign to the night. We lay back and let out a deep breath and our eyes open wide looking onto the darkening sky. Just as the night sky becomes dark, it becomes light. Little sparkles dance into our vision. More and more these dots appear. Suddenly the night sky is almost as bright as day, as we bask in the glow of trillions of suns so distant they appear to us no larger than ants. Laying on our backs we realize we may never be able to travel the billions of lightyears required to see these galaxies filled with stars, yet we travel there in our imagination. Zooming through the solar systems and coming face to face with new worlds, creatures with a hundred eyes, and creatures with no eyes at all. We all travel on our minds spaceship, yet we still truly wonder what is actually out there. Today, we can finally glimpse into this magical realm that we could only dream of before.
Messier 42 Shot with Long Wavelength Camera
To further the education and fascination with the worlds beyond our own, The Havasi Wilderness Foundation annually supports the California Science Center where the Endeavor spaceship is displayed. From time to time, we are invited to special screenings at their IMAX theater. Last Saturday we attended a film entitled “Deep Sky,” a Nathanial Kahn film. Dr. Amy Lo who is the Next Generation Polar Chief Engineer from Northrup Gruman Space Systems was in attendance. She worked for 12 years with a large team on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a NASA project. This project took 20 years to be constructed. It is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Messier 42 shot with Short Wavelength Camera
The goal of the project was to create a telescope that could be launched into space, find stars, and learn more about galaxies. We learned that a giant mirror was constructed that had to be folded to make the journey. It cost 10 billion dollars to build. It was made of brilliant metal with a gold coat on top. It is 6-1/2 meters x 3 and when opened completely the mirror sun shield is the size of a tennis court. This film shows awe-inspiring images captured by the telescope and takes one on a journey to the beginning of time and space. We saw cosmic landscapes, exoplanets, galaxies, nebulae, stellar nurseries, and planets around other stars.
Birth of a Star
Deep Sky begins by showing the building of JWST and its launch on December 25, 2021 inside an ESA Ariane 5 rocket into orbit one-million miles from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. It flew 1 million miles four times farther than the distance to the moon to capture the first images. On July 12, 2022, the first images were shown from a galaxy. Some images were 100 light years away from us. Then, we saw stunning pictures beamed back to earth by NASA’s new telescope. We learned that the star runs out of its energy, becomes unstable, and eventually dies. It explodes as a supernova. Then it recycles-- birth, death, and rebirth. We got to see the birth of a star. This gave us a window into how the earth was formed 3 billion years ago. Just like earth for we are one of endless exoplanets orbiting around the endless stars.
Barreled Spiral Galaxy M83
At the conclusion, Dr. Amy Lo took questions from the audience composed of children and adults. She answered questions that have haunted us earthlings since the beginning of time: How did the universe start? Are earthlings alone? Where did we come from? How long in time does it take to get to a star? The questions were endless from young and old alike.
Visit the NASA website at https://webb.nasa.gov/ and visit the JD portal to learn more.
All Photos taken by JWST of distant galaxies. Blog written by Marilyn Fordney and Isaac Yelchin
Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.