jump to navigation

The benefit of hindsight February 26, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment
planets_comb2

Left: The image of the HR8799 planetary system from data taken with the Keck telescope. Right: the 1998 Hubble data (credit: NRC) (a) original Hubble image, (b) with "traditional" speckle subtraction method, (c-d) 2 images reprocessed showing the planet above the noise (credit: Lafrenière et al., 2009).

An interesting paper turned up on astro-ph last week. Remember HR8799, the star with a whole family of exoplanets imaged directly last year? A Canadian-American team of scientists went back through the archive and re-analysed data taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998. And lo and behold, using new analysis techniques they managed to tease the outermost of HR8799’s planets out of the noise. Very cool. After all, 1998 was only three years after the first ever detection of an exoplanet! Obtaining a direct image of one really was just a glint in our starry eyes back then.

(more…)

Today I’m in….. January 19, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

The MIRI engineering model, ready for testing

The MIRI engineering model, ready for testing

Today, and for the rest of this week, I’m in the city of Leuven, Belgium. Together with some colleagues from the Catholic University of Leuven and various other institutes in Europe I’m spending a few days working on some aspects of calibration and testing for MIRI, the mid-infrared instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope. The JWST, although offcially its “successor”, will differ from Hubble in that it will be optimised for observations in the infrared, rather than the optical or ultraviolet. Although great science can be done at the shorter wavelengths, achieving top notch image quality is more demanding at shorter wavelengths – with the costs for JWST far exceeding initial estimates as it is, who knows what the budget would have had to be for an optical JWST?

(more…)

Hubble: Servicing Mission 4 postponed September 30, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment
Astronaut Steve Smith works on Hubble during Servicing Mission 2 in 1997.

Astronaut Steve Smith works on Hubble during Servicing Mission 2 in 1997.

Astronomers around the world are quite concerned today following NASA’s announcement yesterday of a serious problem with the Hubble Space Telescope that has forced them to delay the all-important 4th servicing mission to next year. The fault, which occurred last weekend in the telescope’s command and data handling system, is preventing data from being sent down from the telescope. The telescope itself, they stressed, is absolutely fine – but this is a pretty serious fault nonetheless.

(more…)

Borg Astronomy September 25, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

One thing that became clear from the talks at .Astronomy is that the days of our traditional model of observational astronomy are numbered, and the Web 2.0 lies at the very heart of the transformation. A shift is occurring in the philosophy of astronomical research.

(more…)

Beyond Hubble: Gearing up for JWST September 21, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments
NASA JPL-CalTech

This model of the MIRI detector (in green) is similar to the charge-coupled devices in digital cameras. It's housed in the brick-like unit called a focal plane module. Credit: NASA JPL-CalTech

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, has enabled some amazing advances in astronomy and enthralled people around the world with stunning imagery from space. A final servicing mission will travel to the Hubble later this year for one last upgrade to carry the telescope through to the end of its life.

Meanwhile, in laboratories across the US and Europe, preparations have been in full swing for Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope. Just two days ago, NASA issued a press release reporting on a crucial milestone in the development of JWST’s instrument for the mid-infrared wavelength regime (from 5 to 28 microns), MIRI – website here. For the last 4 days I’ve been holed up in the lab over in the UK to help prepare for the final flight testing of MIRI, due to take place in a year’s time.

(more…)