Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous 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… extending the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. NASA
Innovative and international, the James Webb folds up like origami inside its payload for its rocket-ride into space, then deploys gold-coated beryllium mirrors. It will orbit the Sun, not the Earth! Farther away than our own Moon (which does, of course, orbit the Earth,) Webb will occupy a Lagrange Point.
The L2 is one of several points in space where the gravitational interplay of the Sun and Earth precisely equal the centrifugal force of a much smaller third body, such as the Webb telescope. It’s a delicate balance, and the telescope won’t sit exactly at the L2 point, but orbit around it as that point orbits the Sun. Kinda wild looking orbit, but a great place for a telescope looking outward to the stars.
You can have your own Webb telescope! At least, you can craft your own paper model. From NASA and telescope enthusiasts from 4th Graders up, download the PDF files, print on heavy or standard paper as described, and assemble.
One of my favorite podcasts tackled the Tunguska event, and this classic mystery seems well in hand. A huge explosion occurred over a remote and sparsely populated area in Siberia in 1908, and data was collected around the world.
Photographs and eye-witness accounts came from years later, but there was real-time data too:
Seismic readings taken from all over Eurasia indicated that Tunguska experienced a 5.0 earthquake from the shockwave.
The barometric impact of the shockwave was recorded nearly everywhere as an atmospheric pressure wave of infrasound, even as far away as Washington, DC on the other side of the planet.
Throughout Eurasia, the night sky was illuminated, consistent with the upper atmosphere ice crystals that would be expected to be created from an explosion of this magnitude. Skeptiod
A huge meteor has seemed a likely explanation for a long time. In January of 2018, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California held a workshop to apply a recent calibration to the analysis: the 2013 event over Chelyabinsk, Russia. We’ve got great information on that strike, including videos.
Past speculation on Tunguska embraced a lot of alternatives to a meteor, from aliens to secret early nuclear bomb experiments, but using what we learned from Chelyabinsk, the Tunguska event has been modeled “within the bounds of accuracy — to any practical degree — to confidently assert that it was the entry and explosion of a hypersonic superbolide, many times the size and with many times the energy of the similar Chelyabinsk event. Even though we don’t know everything, we do know that.”
Suppose you want to launch your payload into orbit on the cheap, with less environmental impact than those big rockets dominating the space industry? Have I got the answer for you (well, not me, exactly, but a California company.) Here comes another revolution in spaceflight.
I can imagine all sorts of problems getting the timing right – you don’t want to clip the edge of the centrifuge – but those are merely engineering details.
SpinLaunch expects to perform the first suborbital tests of a prototype of its centrifugal system for launching small satellites later this year from New Mexico. SpaceNews
They’re set up in (practically) my backyard: Spaceport America. That announcement comes from last January, so they better get their tails in gear to launch in 2021. There’s no date on theri list of job openings, but maybe you can nab one: SpinLaunch