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NASA launches James Webb telescope into space on Christmas Day

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It was the best Christmas present NASA could have asked for.

The agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope built to date, successfully blasted into orbit Saturday. The launch marked the long-awaited start of the Webb telescope’s mission, after more than 30 years of development and countless delays.

The $10-billion observatory, billed as the successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, is designed to study the early days of the universe, roughly 100 million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars flickered on in the cosmos.

The tennis court-sized observatory launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket at 7:20 a.m. ET from a European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The observatory’s liftoff had been postponed several times, including earlier this month to investigate a faulty data cable and more recently because of bad weather at the South American launch site.

Now that the telescope has reached space, it begins a harrowing, monthlong journey to its designated orbit around the sun, more than a million miles away from Earth. 

As Webb travels to its final destination, key parts of the observatory that were folded up to fit inside the rocket will need to unfurl in space. Some of the most nerve-racking stunts will come roughly five days after launch, when the telescope’s huge multilayered sunshield is stretched out and its massive gold-coated primary mirror unfolds. 

The risky, carefully choreographed maneuvers are so complex and require such precision that NASA nicknamed the sequence “29 days on the edge.”

“We have about 50 deployments to get right in that first month after launch,” Greg Robinson, the Webb telescope’s program director at NASA, told NBC News earlier this month. “Those first two or three weeks will be what some would call good anxiety.”

The Webb telescope’s primary mirror measures more than 21 feet across, making it the largest to fly in space. The mirror’s size, which dwarfs that of Hubble and other existing space telescopes, gives Webb the sensitivity to see celestial objects that were previously undetectable. 

“The more distant something is, the fainter it looks. So the larger the mirror, the fainter the thing you can see,” said Marcia Rieke, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and principal investigator of one of Webb’s four main instruments. “The other thing is that the larger the mirror, the finer the detail you can see.”

Telescopes essentially function as time machines because it takes time for light to travel through space. This means that when Webb studies light from the most distant galaxies in the cosmos, the telescope is actually observing how the universe was billions of years ago.

The Webb telescope is designed to “see” beyond the range of the human eye and other telescopes that observe primarily visible light. Webb’s infrared vision can pierce through thick veils of cosmic gas and dust, allowing it to see celestial objects that might normally appear invisible to other observatories.

Webb’s instruments are also sensitive enough to sniff out the atmospheres of exoplanets, to examine their chemical composition and assess whether they could support alien life. 

“It’s conceivable that we could find an exoplanet whose atmosphere’s composition — that collection of molecules — is very similar to Earth’s atmosphere,” Rieke said. “That would just be so astounding if we could do that.”

But before Webb begins collecting any science or snapping any photos of the cosmos, the telescope will undergo a rigorous six-month commissioning period to calibrate its instruments and assess the health of its various components.

If all checks out, mission controllers will finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“Our blood pressure will be high and our hearts beating fast until it’s fully commissioned,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, director of space transportation at the European Space Agency, one of NASA’s international partners for the Webb telescope.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess what Webb may discover, Robinson said.

“I’m curious about what’s out there,” he said. “Where do we come from? What’s our place in the universe? Those are the types of things I’m looking forward to learning.”

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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