Over twenty years in the making and set for a 2018 launch, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the single most advanced space telescope ever constructed. Successor to NASA’s beloved Hubble Space Telescope, JWST has been purpose-built for studying the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to give astronomers an ability of seeing past clouds of dust and gas and further back to the beginning of the Universe than we ever have. How far? According to NASA the JWST will see the Universe’s very first star formations taking place only 100 to 250 million years after the Big Bang. Such distant and precise observations promise to unleash a torrent of new discoveries and unlock fundamental quandaries about the origin of the cosmos and life in the Universe.
A few interesting facts:
• JWST’s primary mirror is a 6.5 meter diameter gold coated beryllium reflector that is too large for contemporary launch vehicles, so the mirror is being composed of 18 hexagonal segments (as seen above), which will all unfold after the telescope is launched. Why Hexagons? It’s beyond my comprehension, but supposedly this has something to do with hexagons having a perimeter less than that of a square over a given area, which translates to a gained efficiency for steering the mirror segments and focusing the telescope.
• The telescope will maintain an L2 orbit, meaning that it will orbit in earth’s shadow and around the sun, not the earth. The idea here is to eliminate all possible heat / light sources, such as Earth’s heat-shimmer, and keep the telescope as cold as possible. How cold? Extremely. Cold. The JWST’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) will operate at a set temperature of 7 Kelvins, or -266° C / -447° F, through the use of a helium refrigerator, or cryocooler system (source).
• Although JWST’s primary goal is to study the first galaxies or stars that formed after the Big Bang, the telescope is also capable of measuring the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems within our Milky Way and will investigate the potential for life in those planetary systems.
• When launched, some scientists suggest the telescope will represent a greater technological achievement than landing on the moon.
First discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s, NASA has recently released new images of the mysterious hexagon-shaped storm on Saturn’s northern pole. Taken with their Cassini Spacecraft, visible light images like this were not originally possible when Cassini arrived at Saturn back in 2004 due to the entire northern hemisphere being in winter solstice.
The hexagon measures 25,000 km (15,500 mi) across, with each side being 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long. As the above image demonstrates, it’s wide enough to fit nearly four earth’s inside of it.
The hexagonal ring itself is created by a jet stream, while the center contains a spiralling vortex of clouds. Scientists say that the storm reaches speeds up to 354 km/h (220 mph).
In short, we can’t figure it out. Namely, scientists don’t currently understand where the storm obtains and expels its energy, or how/why it has stayed in such an organized shape for so long.
You can read more about this hexagonal goodness here and view more images here.
Situated in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile, at 2,635m above sea level exists the Paranal Observatory. Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the site contains mankind’s most advanced optical instrument, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), as well as a number of other state-of-the-art auxiliary and survey telescopes – most notably the VLT Survey Telescope and VISTA.
The VLT itself is comprised of four unit telescopes, which in 2011 gained the ability to work together to create the VLT Interferometer; an instrument that allows astronomers to see details up to 25 times greater than the individual telescopes can alone. Needless to say, the results offer a staggeringly beautiful view of our cosmos.
You can view many more Paranal Observatory and ESO images on the ESO website. A short film comprised of time lapses from the Paranal Observatory was also released last year. This is embedded below. Fullscreen that mother.
A captivating set of journalistic style images from the East Side Access project as of February 12, 2013. These images serve not only as a historical record of the tunnel’s construction, but as a stunning example of how far high-end DSLR cameras have come in handling high ISO images. All these images were shot between ISO 3200 – 5000 on a Nikon D4, and – more notably – at sharp apertures and shutter speeds. Images this clean under those lighting conditions simply wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago.
Oh yeah, the tunnel is pretty neat, too.
(Edit: was asked why ‘billy j mitchell’ was in the last frame. But of course, it was to illustrate how much detail and tone remains in Billy’s skin at high ISO and in dim lighting.)
I stumbled on Benoit Paillé the other day and was so totally captivated by his photography. Each photo tells a detailed story.
I think that photography doesn’t represent reality, but creates it.
In this series he used a plastic light square with 300 LED lights that were linked to a dimmer. He used fishing line to hang it from the trees. I’m not sure how he got it to hover over the dirt and rocks.
My approach towards landscape is to incorporate a poetical component that will trigger an emotional response linked to the form and the light. I wanted to create something that wasn’t really a landscape but rather something engineered, so as to move the viewer in a different way.
Between 1909 and 1915, Russian photographer/chemist Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii traveled across his homeland, using the relatively new technology of color photography to document what he saw. Outfitting a private train car with his own dark room equipment, Prokudin-Gorskii captured landscapes, buildings, and people in a series of breathtaking images. Given the rarity of vibrant color photography from this era, Prokudin-Gorskii’s work is all the more striking: Without sepia tones’ time-distancing effects, the characters in these images feel right there, full of stories of a bygone era and a diverse, colorful culture on the brink of revolution.
Some inspiring artwork from Carolina Niño. The level of detail in her work is amazing. Just a small portion of a full image is a composition on its own. Be sure to check out her portfolio and if your are interested in prints you can find her on S6.
In terms of digital reproductions, there really isn’t much of Roloff Beny’s work online. So when I came across this Wine & Bowties post with gorgeous scans of Roloff Beny’s work in India from 1969, you bet I was totally stoked! (note: There are more images on their blog, so follow the link posted above)
From the write-up:
“…Beny was a world traveler, and India is one of a number of his works which could effectively be described as a love letter to the place it documents. One of the most impressive examples of his eye for color, scenery and natural beauty, India finds Beny exploring a place with no shortage of gorgeous landscapes, architecture, and rich culture. In some ways, these images read like an idyllic Westerner’s portrait, an aesthetically idealized version of a complex place…”