MSUM Planetarium to Host James Webb Space Telescope Image Showcase on July 21 – InForum

FARGO — Before the James Webb Space Telescope began taking high-resolution images 100 times stronger and clearer than any other telescope in space, it had to be tested.

The huge engineering project that spanned 28 years had to withstand intense heat, intense cold and was shaken so hard that during one sighting a screw fell off.

Meticulously, engineers had to deconstruct the telescope to find where the screw had come from, said Sara Schultz, director of the planetarium at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

This week, the MSUM Planetarium will host a free public event to showcase the new deep space images captured by the telescope.

The event is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, July 21 at Bridges Hall room 167, 700 11th St. S., and it will kick off the 100-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the MSUM Planetarium.

Comprised of 18 separate segments that unfold and conform to shape after launch, the telescope mirrors inside are made of ultra-light beryllium. The telescope, named after a former NASA administrator, also has a five-layer, tennis-court-sized sunshade that cuts down on the sun’s heat.

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for featuring prominently in the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light.

Contribution / NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The telescope is equipped with cameras, spectrometers, detectors capable of recording extremely weak signals and observing up to 100 objects simultaneously.

Launched as a “next-generation space telescope” on Christmas Day 2021 from an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, the telescope can turn back time, Schultz said.

“It’s at what we call the Lagrange point, in a stable orbit around the Earth, so it can take pictures of some of the planets, but most of the time it will be looking out into space. It can see 100 times farther than the Hubble telescope,” Schultz said.

“If we see 100 times further, then you see 100 times further in time,” Schultz said. “He can see much earlier, including galaxy formations. If you look further into the light, we look further into history.

Two images side by side.  The left shows a very detailed red cloud around a round, irregular misty shape with a star in the middle.  The right shows a less detailed version, in which the colors are reversed and the cloud appears smaller.
This side-by-side comparison shows observations of the South Ring Nebula in near-infrared light, left, and mid-infrared light, right, from NASA’s Webb Telescope. This scene was created by a white dwarf star – the remnants of a star like our Sun after it lost its outer layers and stopped burning fuel through nuclear fusion.

Contribution / NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

The James Webb Space Telescope began documenting images several weeks ago, and the images were revealed on July 12.

So far, the telescope has documented space dust, galaxy clusters, starlight and even star birth, according to its website.

Matthew Craig, professor of physics and astronomy at MSUM, is also director of the Fargo-Moorhead Astronomy Club. More importantly, he developed computer code in a language called Python for the James Webb Space Telescope.

“I never imagined I would be able to look at this footage on Tuesday and say I played a very small part in it,” Craig said, adding that he will also speak about the project at the planetarium on Saturday, July 23. .

“One of the goals of the Webb telescope is to be able to observe the atmosphere of planets,” Craig said, noting that the machine has the ability to color coordinate elements in the atmosphere, which can give clues about the atmosphere. existence of life on other planets. distant, very distant planets.

What: A showcase and discussion of the images sent in by the James Webb Space Telescope and a kickoff to the 100-day celebration of the MSUM Planetarium’s 50th anniversary. The celebration will feature speakers, a full-dome film festival, laser light festival, dancing and more.

When: Thursday July 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: MSUM Planetarium, Bridges Hall 167, 700 11th St. S. Moorhead.

Arline J. Mercier