Tickets are on sale for the screening of “MARS: One Thousand One” which will be presented at 7 p.m. on April 21 at the William M. Thomas Planetarium. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for general admission seating and are locked at 7:30 p.m. when the show begins.
Go to the planetarium website at bakersfieldcollege.edu/planetarium for links to buy tickets online and more information about the show. Although it is no longer mandatory to be masked indoors in British Columbia, with a vaccination rate of only 54% in Kern County, you may consider wearing a mask indoors. closed space of the planetarium, especially if you have or live with someone who has a serious illness. immune system.
Precise alignment of the James Webb Space Telescope mirrors and calibration of the instruments continues as planned. There is a seven-step process to align all the mirrors exquisitely and send the infrared light to the four instruments.
The first stage looked at the nearby bright star HD 84406 as the near-infrared camera cooled below 120 kelvins (about minus 244 degrees Fahrenheit). The 18 mirrors produced 18 blurry images of the star as expected.
The second stage moved the secondary mirror, which is on a tripod in front of the large primary. The secondary mirror redirects light to a central hole in the primary mirror. The scientific instruments are behind the primary mirror. The secondary mirror was moved slightly in the second stage to see the effect on the 18 blurred images.
Image stacking marks the third stage where all 18 mirrors are aligned to place all of the individual images on top of each other. The fourth stage had three cycles of coarse phasing and a final final phasing cycle where the alignment is fine-tuned to positional accuracy below the wavelength of infrared light (much smaller than a hair’s breadth).
Fine phasing in the center of the NIRCam’s field of view was the fifth step. This step produced the bright star image you’ve probably seen on the internet. It’s a pretty engineering picture, but no scientific information will come out of it. This was a 2100 second exposure to a wavelength of approximately 2 microns (the human eye can see wavelengths between 0.4 microns for violet and 0.7 microns for the Red).
The sixth stage is now underway. Super-precise alignment is extended to the other three science instruments (NIRSpec, MIRI, and the FGS-NIRISS that I described in a January column) and across their entire field of view.
The seventh and final step is the final alignment fix, which should be completed by the end of April/May 1. Then we can create infrared color images and measure compositions, densities, velocities, temperatures, etc., from infrared spectroscopy. Hopefully the first beautiful science images will be released in early BC on May 12. We will be back in person and In the stadium!
In the morning sky
Early morning risers had a much prettier display of the planets than evening sky watchers. Venus, Mars and Saturn were close together in the southeast before dawn. Venus is moving away from the two outer planets, and Mars and Saturn are approaching.
On Tuesday morning, Mars and Saturn will be within one moon diameter of each other in our sky. Both will have about the same brightness. Mars will be the lower reddish of the two. A small telescope should be able to spot Saturn’s rings.
On the morning of April 18, before dawn, you will be able to see four equally spaced planets in an east-southeast line. Jupiter will be at the very bottom left, then Venus, then Mars, and finally Saturn at the upper right end. Jupiter and Venus will shine brighter than any other star in the sky, Venus being the brightest of them all. (There may be future NASA missions to Venus because new research shows that Venus may have had a significant amount of liquid water in the past before it got so hot from a greenhouse effect out of control – more on that in a future column.)
Mars and Saturn will be as bright as the brightest stars in the sky.
In the evening of early April, it will be necessary to be satisfied with a crescent moon which thickens and moves in the constellation of Taurus. On Monday evening, it will be next to the Pleiades star cluster at the shoulder of Taurus.
On Wednesday, the moon will be a larger crescent between the horns of Taurus. The first quarter is the evening of April 8 and the full moon is April 16. Hope you can enjoy some really dark star filled skies this month!