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Awesomeness Round-Up – 11/22/2011

  • By Maggie Masetti
  • November 22, 2011
  • Comments Off on Awesomeness Round-Up – 11/22/2011

One of the newest additions to NASA Goddard is this giant structural steel frame that will be used to assemble the mirrors and instruments of the James Webb Space Telescope. “This milestone is important as it marks the transition to the integration and testing phase for the Webb telescope’s optical telescope element,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at Goddard.

The U-shaped Ambient Optical Assembly Stand (or AOAS) is 24 feet high, 52 feet wide and 41 feet long and weighs 139,000 pounds. Its purpose is to cradle the entire 3.7 metric ton optical telescope and install 18 individual 90 pound mirror segments and other components onto the telescope structure with better than one one-thousandth of an inch precision.

Here’s a time-lapse video of the assembly stand being constructed:

A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that can be seen from the southern hemisphere.

The most intriguing object, however, doesn’t seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble near the bottom center of the image. This so-called ‘planetary nebula’ is the aftermath of the death of a star. The burned-out central star can be seen inside the bubble. It is uncertain whether the planetary nebula is a member of NGC 1846, or simply lies along the line of sight to the cluster. Measurements of the motion of the cluster stars and the planetary nebula’s central star suggest it might be a cluster member.

This Hubble image was taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in January of 2006. The cluster was observed in filters that isolate blue, green, and infrared starlight. As a member of the Large Magellanic Cloud, NGC 1846 is located roughly 160,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Doradus.

NASA's Hubble Finds Stellar Life and Death in a Globular Cluster
Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA
Acknowledgment: P. Goudfrooij, STScI

A Stellar Birth Announcement (NASA, Chandra, 11/17/11)
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC; Optical: Digitized Sky Survey

Congratulations, it’s a… black hole! Scientists working with data from radio, optical and X-ray telescopes have released new information about the formation of the famous stellar-mass black hole Cygnus X-1, pictured above with optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and an artist’s illustration depicting the black hole pulling material from its massive companion star. Scientists have made increasingly precise measurements of the object’s distance, mass, and spin, and speculate that its current mass of 14.8 times the mass of the Sun is probably close to its mass when it formed, millions of years ago. That’s a big baby!

NASA Tools Used on Hubble
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

These gorgeous photographs were taken of various tools used during Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), the latest Space Shuttle mission that met up with the Hubble Space Telescope to swap out some parts and extend the satellite’s lifespan. Tools like these are custom designed and one-of-a-kind, engineered for a very specific job. So what happens when the mission is over? Goddard’s Matt Ritsko, the Financial Manager for the Gravity Extreme Magnetism SMEX (GEMS) mission, won the 2011 Presidential Securing Americans’ Value and Efficiency (SAVE) award for his idea to save the government money: “NASA could create a high tech ‘tool shed’ where both reusable tools and additional parts could be shared.”

Who knows what these tools could be used for in the future!

NASA Tools Used on Hubble
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

NASA Tools Used on Hubble
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Chris Gunn

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