If all goes well, in 2018, the James Webb Telescope will make a one million mile trek to the second Lagrange point — one of five gravitationally stable where the pull from the Earth and Sun are roughly equal relative to each other. Once there it’ll begin deploying a sunshield to further protect the telescopes sensors from the sun’s interference. Sometime later we should start getting regular super-high resolution pictures of the oldest things in our universe.You might have noticed that I’ve been saying things like “should” a bunch. The reality is that space travel is risky and it doesn’t always work out. The Hubble, for example, had a rather famous defect with its main mirror. Thankfully, because it was close to Earth, we were able to fix the problem in short order. If James Webb encounters a problem, though, it’ll be many times farther than any human’s ever been from Earth. We wouldn’t even have a craft capable of fixing the telescope for years. Plus James Webb cost $9 billion. So it’s really, REALLY important we get this right.If we do though, and if all goes as planned we’ll not only be able to peer back into the earliest moments of our universe but determine the chemical composition of planets around nearby stars. All those maybe Earths we keep finding? We could potentially tell if some of them have life or at least could really support it. Here’s hoping it all goes well. Hubble is one of the most important telescopes in history. It showed us so much of the universe around us and has been credited with keeping the public’s imagination about space alive — and peppering basically all media since with sprawling nebulae. But space telescope is almost 30 years old at this point. It’s had a good run, but it’s about time we made some upgrades. That’s the idea behind the forthcoming James Webb Telescope.NASA released the photo above this week. It shows the completed mirror assembly for the massive telescope. It uses 18 smaller, precisely calibrated hexagonal dishes to complete the main mirror body. This amounts to a 6.5-meter dish that can collect a tremendous amount of light which will allow astronomers to see fainter objects further back in time than ever before.The telescope is still under construction, but this week marks an important milestone. The body of the telescope is now complete, and it will now be moved from the Goddard Flight Center in Maryland to Houston. There it’ll be carefully examined and screened to make sure it’s ready for space.When all that’s set, the final satellite will be transported to French Guinea to launch from the European Space Agency’s spaceport there. The position is ideal because rockets deployed from near the equator get an effective push thanks to the Earth’s rotation.
These Photos of Penguins Wearing Backpacks Will Brighten Your DaySame-Sex Penguin Couple Fosters Egg in Australia Aquarium Stay on target Scientists recently stumbled upon a “supercolony” of Adélie penguins living on the Danger Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.The discovery—made from guano stains spotted in NASA satellite imagery—provides new insight into a species believed to be on the decline.For 40 years, more than 1.5 million penguins (751,527 pairs) have apparently been waddling around near the South Pole—completely unnoticed.“Until recently, the Danger Islands weren’t known to be an important penguin habitat,” Heather Lynch, associate professor of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, said in a statement.The so-called supercolony has been overlooked for so long, she continued, in part because of the remoteness of the islands, but also due to the treacherous waters surrounding them. Even in the summer, the ocean is filled with thick sea ice, restricting access to the area.The Danger Islands have 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins—more than the rest of the entire Antarctic Peninsula region combined. (via Michael Polito/Louisiana State University)Thank God for NASA satellites.In 2014, Lynch and Mathew Schwaller of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration identified droppings in NASA imagery, hinting at a “mysteriously large” number of penguins, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which led the study.The following year, Lynch and a team of experts arrived at the islands to find hundreds of thousands of birds nesting in rocky soil (including the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world). Using drone photography, neural network software, and their hands, the group counted each and every penguin.Accuracy is key, Louisiana State University professor Michael Polito, said. The total number of Danger Islands penguins provides insight into population dynamics, as well as effects of changing temperatures on the region’s ecology.Researchers believe the penguins deserve special consideration in the negotiation and design of Marine Protected Areas in the region (via Michael Polito/Louisiana State University)“Not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change,” Polito said.The volume of Adélies on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, for instance, differs from the west side, Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist a WHOI, explained.“We want to understand why. Is it linked to the extended sea ice condition over there? Food availability? That’s something we don’t know.”Read more about the research in a paper published this week by the journal Scientific Reports.The Danger Islands are likely to remain an important breeding location for penguins under projected climate change; researchers are fighting for special consideration of the Adélies in the negotiation and design of marine protected areas in the region.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. read more