NASA’s newest generation space observatory has been able to observe a moving asteroid as the telescope approaches the end of its six-month commissioning period. The James Webb Telescope’s ability to spot nearby targets will allow it to observe everything from icy objects in the Kuiper Belt, to the moon.
“As we move forward through commissioning, we will test other objects moving at various speeds to verify that we can study objects with Webb moving across the solar system,” NASA wrote in a May 19, 2022 blog post. , Wednesday (25/5/2022).
The asteroid selected for the observation exercise was 6841 Tenzing, an asteroid in the main belt named after Tenzing Norgay, one of the climbers to summit Mount Everest in Tibet with Edmund Hillary. Coincidentally, Webb’s observations came just days before the 69th anniversary of their summit on May 29, 1953.
“Bryan Holler, at the Space Telescope Science Institute, has a selection of about 40 possible asteroids to test tracking [target bergerak]. The team selected asteroids with names associated with success,” said Heidi Hammel, Webb’s interdisciplinary scientist for solar system observations.
Webb faced some additional challenges with tracking moving targets, such as the alignment of mirrors and delicate instruments. Hammel said the James Webb telescope faces great challenges in uncovering various sciences in space, such as studying the planets Uranus and Neptune.
Moreover, so far only one spacecraft has been able to visit this distant part of the solar system, namely Voyager 1 on a Neptune imaging mission in 1989. “The Uranus team hopes to study the dynamics of the atmosphere there and find out for sure its chemical content,” he said. Hammel.
Other planned science targets in the solar system include Saturn’s rings, Titan’s dense moon atmosphere. These include observations of several icy objects in the Kuiper Belt, and the sporadic clumps that are thought to emerge from the icy moon Europa in the Hubble Space Telescope recordings.
Europa is the target of NASA’s Europa Clipper mission and it is likely that Webb’s observations will help the future spacecraft with its work. The James Webb telescope is expected to complete its science assignment sometime in June before entering its initial period of duty.