The North Carolina Mason

January/February 2016

North Carolina Mason

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Page 2 The North Carolina Mason January/February 2016 of James Webb. anks to his efforts, we got our first glimpses at the dramat- ic landscape of outer space. He took our nation on its first voyages of explora- tion, turning our imagination onto real- ity." Webb died in 1992. e James Webb Space Telescope ( JWST) with its large, infrared-opti- mized space telescope will peer through the dusty portions of space to reveal the first galaxies formed in the Big Bang. According to a NASA release, "It will study every phase in the history of our universe, ranging from the first lumi- nous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System." Weighing more than seven tons on Earth, JWST will sport a folding, seg- mented mirror that will deploy after reaching orbit. e mirror is more than 20 feet across (six times larger than the Hubble's) and will be capable of seeing detail the size of a penny at a distance of 24 miles. Heat protection is essential for infrared observation. at is why the telescope will have a sun shield the size of a tennis court. at's also why the telescope will be parked in the L2 La- grange point, about one million miles from earth. at spot keeps the Earth, Moon, and Sun in the same, constant direction relative to the satellite, making for easier shading of the telescope from external heat, allowing it to operate at –370 degrees Fahrenheit, very close to absolute zero. Its unfolding mirror of micrometeoroid resistant beryllium will set a precedent for later, larger mirrors in space. ere are several important instru- ments on the Webb. e Near-Infrared Camera, will be Webb's primary camera and will take images of the first stars and galaxies to form in the universe, along with many other astronomical targets. Another instrument, the Near-In- frared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), will analyze the spectra and composition of as many as 100 objects at once. e Mid-Infrared Instrument, has both a camera and a spectrograph, which sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum — wavelengths longer than the human eye can see. e final instrument, the Fine Guid- ance Sensor and Near-infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, will allow the Webb to point precisely at its target in order to obtain high-quality images, and also will provide other valuable sci- ence modes for investigating both the distant universe and nearby exoplanets. WEBB, from page 1 An artist rendering of what the deployed Webb Telescope will look like. James E. Webb Once in space, a huge sun shield will act as an umbrella to keep heat radiating from the Sun and Earth from reaching scientific instruments that must stay cold to function properly. A team of scientists and engineers have been working to install all 18 pri- mary mirror segments in the large clean NASA photo Nor throp Gr umman photo room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. e 12 th mirror was installed on January 2, 2016. Space telescopes are increasingly being seen as much as time machines as optical devices. By recording ever more faint and distant light signals, we are seeing further and further back into time, nearing the very beginnings of the universe. e Webb Space Tele- scope will see objects that are ten to 100 times fainter than those captured by the Hubble, ten billion times fainter than the faintest stars you can see in the sky. It will see the universe as it was 100–250 million years after the Big Bang, a mere one or two percent of its current age. e Webb's mission will be to search there for the first galaxies and see how they evolved, to observe the early formation of stars, and measure the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems. As the Webb Space Telescope brings us flashes of the earliest light from the beginnings of time, we can all take pride that it also salutes more light in Masonry from the Tar Heel State. Thermal blankets are prepared for testing the telescope in the vacuum chamber. Chris Gunn photo

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