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Posted on January 7th, 2014

Reaching Orbit

James Webb Space Telescope

This awesome telescope recently received delivery of the last three of its 18 primary mirrors. While we have to patiently wait until 2018 for the massive telescope to launch into space, I am already super excited. The telescope will be the largest of its kind to be launched into space. If you think the Hubble Telescope captures some awesome images of interstellar phenomenon, just wait until this baby is stationed 1 million miles from Earth, staring into distant galaxies.

RS Puppis, shrouded by dust, has an average brightness that is 15,000 times greater than our sun. (Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab.)
One of the first images captured by NEOWISE after it was revived from hibernation of the constellation Canes Venatici. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)


Speaking of the Hubble telescope, it’s time for my image of the month! Hubble captured a star that is over 200 times larger than our sun, RS Puppis. The star is surrounded by reflective dust, creating ethereal waves of luminosity. RS Puppis in the class of Cepheid variable stars as it dims and brightens in a six-week cycle. These stars have been used for decades to ascertain accurate distances between stellar objects and the Earth.


Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are performing a series of spacewalks, not to be  confused with moonwalks. The astronauts are working to replace a degraded ammonia pump module that shut down after reaching pre-set temperature limits. The pump operates one of two external cooling loops that works to keep the external and internal equipment cool. When one loop is powered down, certain equipment is also powered down, while others are moved to the functioning cooling loop so that research can continue as planned. It will take a number of spacewalks to remove the faulty part and then replace it with a new, functioning ammonia pump.


A very sleepy spacecraft has been awoken from its slumber after 31 months in hibernation. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, NEOWISE to its friends, discovered over 34,000 asteroids and characterized over 158,000 in the solar system before turning into Sleeping Beauty in 2011. In September, the spacecraft was roused to assist NASA in identifying potentially hazardous asteroids, since that seems to be the only space related venture the majority of people care about. Who needs science and exploration when there are big, bad asteroids flying around space, waiting to strike at any moment?  NEOWISE captured a set of test images to ascertain its readiness  for the new mission at hand.

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163

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