Scientists create huge 3D map, hoping to uncover one of the universe’s biggest mysteries

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

The project will allow for the study of Dark Energy – a mystery force that is driving the universe to expand more and more quickly

This is one slice through the map of the large-scale structure of the Universe

Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

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Hundreds of scientists have made the biggest ever 3D map of the universe and could uncover some of its biggest mysteries.

The huge map has let experts precisely measure Dark Energy, the mystery force that’s causing the universe to expand at an increasing speed.

The map amounts to a huge survey of the universe. And using it they will be able to see just what that Dark Energy is doing, by looking at the changes that are taking place.

Dr Rita Tojeiro, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, who co-led the international team, said: “Over the last decade we have prepared and conducted the largest survey of the universe yet.

“By measuring the positions of 1.2 million galaxies over one quarter of the sky, we mapped the three-dimensional structure of the Universe over a volume of 650 cubic billion lightyears. Using this map we were able to make some of the crispest measurements yet of how Dark Energy is driving the expansion of the universe.”

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – Mapping the Universe

Hundreds of scientists worked together in a British-led team to pull the map together. The work relied on the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, or Boss, which looked at “pressure waves” that travel through the universe.

They can be understood like sound waves, which leave an imprint on the universe. The scientists could look at those waves in the cosmic wave background, which is the afterglow left from when the Big Bang gave birth to the universe.

“We see a dramatic connection between the sound wave imprints seen in the cosmic microwave background 400,000 years after the Big Bang to the clustering of galaxies 7-12billion years later,” said Dr Tojeiro.

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/scientists-create-huge-3d-map-hoping-to-uncover-one-of-the-universe-s-biggest-mysteries-a7137306.html

 

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Scientists might have discovered a fifth force of nature, changing our whole view of the universe

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

If the scientists are correct, then the Standard Model of physics could be due a major revision

It’s one of the most important parts of physics: there are four fundamental forces in the universe. And it might be completely wrong.

Scientists have said that they may have discovered a new force, not accounted for in the Standard Model, indicating that our view of physics might be entirely wrong.

If the scientists’ claim is correct, then it could have a huge impact on our understanding of the universe and our search for dark matter. It is reported in the journal Physical Review Letters by researchers from the University of California, Irvine.

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics & astronomy at UCI, in a statement. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

The data for the new claim comes from a mid-2015 study by experimental nuclear physicists in Hungary. That work was looking for “dark photons” – particles that would be a sign of dark matter, the substance that makes up about 85 per cent of the universe but which we’ve never actually seen.

The scientists, from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, found a radioactive decay anomaly that seemed to suggest that there was a light particle 30 times heavier than an electron.

That remained something of a mystery to the original scientists.

“The experimentalists weren’t able to claim that it was a new force,” UCI professor of physics & astronomy Jonathan Feng said. “They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle.”

But the UCI scientists looked through the data and showed that the unexplained data didn’t seem to come from matter particles or dark photons. The explanation that seemed to bring together the data was that there is a fifth force, previously unnoticed by scientists.

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At the moment, the Standard Model of physics includes only four fundamental forces: gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. They’ve thought to be complete and govern our understanding of the entire universe.

But they will have to do more work before they can say so for sure. The force hasn’t been detected before because it is so weak – and finding it again might be made difficult for the same reason.

“The particle is not very heavy, and laboratories have had the energies required to make it since the ’50s and ’60s,” Professor Feng said. “But the reason it’s been hard to find is that its interactions are very feeble. That said, because the new particle is so light, there are many experimental groups working in small labs around the world that can follow up the initial claims, now that they know where to look.”

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/scientists-might-have-discovered-a-fifth-force-of-nature-changing-our-whole-view-of-the-universe-a7194121.html

More than 90 per cent of the galaxies in the cosmos have never been studied. Scientists aren’t sure what they’ll find there

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

The universe was already far too big to understand. But scientists just found that it’s actually much bigger than we’d previously thought.

The observable universe is made up of at least two trillion galaxies, according to a new study. That’s 20 times more than had previously been thought.

The new estimate comes from a British-led study that used images from the Hubble Space Telescope to create a 3D map of the universe. That allowed scientists to understand how dense the galaxies were, and how large separate small regions of space are.

And when that was all put together, the scientists found that the map was far larger than they’d ever thought. It was previously thought that the observable universe had about 100 billion galaxies – until the new study found far more.

The observable universe refers to the part of the cosmos that we can see from Earth, since the light from it has had time to reach us.

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The study found that early in the universe’s history it was far more full, and so had far more galaxies. When our cosmos was just a few billion years old, each part of it had 10 times more galaxies than take up that space today.

“Finding more galaxies in the past implies that significant evolution must have occurred to reduce their number through extensive merging of systems,” said lead scientist Professor Christopher Conselice, from the University of Nottingham. “We are missing the vast majority of galaxies because they are very faint and far away.

“The number of galaxies in the universe is a fundamental question in astronomy, and it boggles the mind thatover 90% of the galaxies in the cosmos have yet to be studied.

“Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we study these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes?”

The research, co-funded by the Royal Astronomical Society, appears in the Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/universe-galaxies-how-big-many-size-observable-map-history-nottingham-a7360736.html

Astronomers prove 200-year-old theory about why it gets dark at night

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

The universe is much bigger than previously thought so the sky should be filled with stars – the reason it isn’t was put forward two centuries ago to explain ‘Olbers Paradox’

Olbers Paradox questioned how it could get dark if there were enough stars to fill the sky Getty

A theory that explains why it gets dark at night – dismissed by scientists for 200 years – has been proved right by new research using images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

German astronomer Heinrich Olbers famously pondered the “dark sky paradox”: if there was an infinite number of stars in the universe, how could it get dark at night as every point in the sky would contain a star.

He suggested clouds of hydrogen could be blocking the light.

But later astronomers estimated there were actually 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe – not enough to fill the sky – so this theory was not needed to explain why it gets dark.

And Professor Christopher Conselice, a Nottingham university astrophysicist, who took part in the Hubble study, said: “The extra factor of 10 or more [times the number of galaxies] is able to fill in the sky with stars.

“But most of that light, or all of the light from the most distant galaxies, is being absorbed by hydrogen gas which is between us and them.

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“That was one of the ideas Mr Olbers had suggested, but people discounted that and we kind of brought that back as a solution to the problem.”

Professor Conselice said the existence of the clouds of hydrogen had been demonstrated by other astronomers by examining the spectrum of light.

“We just didn’t know there were galaxies behind that hydrogen wall,” he said.

In addition to the galaxies that cannot be seen for this reason, there could be more that we cannot observe because they are so far away the universe is not old enough for the light to have had time to reach Earth.

“The honest answer is, possibly, but we don’t know,” Professor Conselice said.

“There could be multiple universes, there could be stuff behind what’s called the horizon, the limit we can see, which is basically the amount of distance light could have travelled since the beginning of the universe.”

The research was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/why-it-gets-dark-at-night-astronomers-prove-theory-olbers-paradox-a7360931.html

Scientists take ‘remarkable’ step towards discovering true nature of dark matter

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Physicist hails the ‘beautiful’ and ‘ingenious’ methods used in the study, which found a likely mass for what could be the fundamental building block of dark matter

Scientists may have taken a giant step towards solving one of the great mysteries of astronomy – what the “dark matter” thought to make up 85 per cent of the Universe actually is.

The existence of this vast amount of mysterious unseen material is needed to explain the way galaxies rotate.

If they only consisted of the stars we can see, the forces involved would see stars flying off in all directions. The extra mass, and therefore extra gravity, is required to explain why this does not happen.

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – Dark Matter and Dark Energy

In 1977, researchers came up with a theory that dark matter consisted of hypothetical particles called axions, much like Professor Peter Higgs’s proposal for a hypothetical particle to explain why things have mass in the 1960s. The discovery of the “Higgs boson” at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in 2013 resulted in a Nobel Prize for Professor Higgs, of Edinburgh University, and Belgian physicist Francois Englert.

Actual evidence of the axion has remained elusive over the decades.

But now researchers have used a supercomputer to calculate what the mass of an axion would be if it does make up most dark matter

They found it would be between 50 and 1,500 micro-electronvolts – or up to 10 billion times lighter than an electron, according to a paper in the journal Nature.

This crucial bit of evidence will allow physicists to search for this incredibly tiny particle in the real world. Finding out the nature of dark matter would be on a par with the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Researcher Dr Andreas Ringwald, of the DESY research centre in Germany, said: “Dark matter is an invisible form of matter which until now has only revealed itself through its gravitational effects. What it consists of remains a complete mystery.

“The adjective ‘dark’ does not simply mean that it does not emit visible light. It does not appear to give off any other wavelengths either – its interaction with photons must be very weak indeed.”

He said that knowing what kind of mass an axion might have was “extremely helpful” to those looking for one.

“Otherwise the search could take decades, because one would have to scan far too large a range,” Dr Ringwald said.

Professor Zoltán Fodor, of Wuppertal University in Germany and Eötvös University in Hungary, who led the research, suggested their findings would significantly shorten that timescale.

“The results we are presenting will probably lead to a race to discover these particles,” he said.

According to their calculations, there should be a vast amount of axions – if they exist.

There would need to be an average of 10 million axions in every cubic centimetre of the universe. And, because dark matter clumps together, the Milky Way should have about a trillion axions per cubic centimetre.

In an article published in Nature, Dr Maria Paola Lombardo, of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Italy, praised the high quality of the study.

She said the scientists had been able to calculate “the expected mass of the axion with unprecedented accuracy, a result that could be useful for understanding the properties of this mysterious particle and directing strategies for its detection”.

They had done so, Dr Lombardo said, by using a “remarkable degree of accuracy and sophistication”, “an admirable combination of new ideas and an ingenious use of established technqiues”, and “a beautiful strategy” to overcome one potential problem.

“If axions exist, they would have been produced abundantly during the earliest moments of the Big Bang,” Dr Lombardo added.

“Let us hope that this remarkable study will motivate researchers to further investigate the properties of the axion, with the aim of giving experiments the robust theoretical input that they need.”

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dark-matter-made-of-axions-universe-galaxies-astronomy-a7393536.html

New insight into elusive antimatter can help unravel universe’s mysteries

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

New research has compared hydrogen and antihydrogen up to ten decimal places for the very first time

The universe is made of both matter and antimatter – this is what physicists since the 1930s have believed. While we are well aware of what the physical matter is, antimatter has remained an elusive substance.

But that is about to change: I have been involved with a group of scientists whose newly published research on antihydrogen – the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen – heralds a new era in the effort to understand more about antimatter and how it has managed to evade us.

So what is antimatter? In the late 1920s, theoretical physicist Paul Dirac predicted the existence of “mirror” particles – opposite counterparts to the already known electrons and protons. These mirror particles had opposite charge so they were a positive electron and a negative proton – later named positron and antiproton. The positron was discovered a few years later in 1932, but it took scientists until 1955 to discover the antiproton.

The discovery was tricky as antimatter doesn’t seem to be prevalent in the universe. In fact, the antiproton was only discovered because a particle accelerator was built specifically to create them.

According to Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2, mass can be converted to energy and vice versa. The accelerator worked by supplying enough energy to create antiprotons by converting energy to mass. Mass is a compact holder of energy, but not all of it can normally be released – even a nuclear weapon only releases a tiny fraction of the energy of its mass.

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – The Riddle of Anti Matter

When a particle and its antiparticle are brought together, they annihilate each other – that is, they collide and disappear – and all their mass energy is released in a burst of light. The opposite is also true: with sufficient energy, we can create matter, but like annihilation, this process is also symmetric, so matter and antimatter will always be created in equal quantities.

This is the process by which the first antiproton was created, and it is still what we use today. But it is incredibly inefficient: in a typical creation process at CERN’s antiproton decelerator, about a million protons are collided with a metal target to yield a single antiproton.

Why is it important?

Physicists believe that the universe was created in the Big Bang billions of years ago, and in particular that it started out so hot and tiny that no particles could form at the very start. As this primordial energy soup cooled, particles and antiparticles formed in equal quantities. But less than a second after the Big Bang, something happened that caused an asymmetry, leaving a small excess of matter behind. So where did all the antimatter go? We simply don’t know – this is one of the greatest mysteries of physics.

There is no explanation for this asymmetry, in fact we cannot explain how we can be here, as this asymmetry is required for the universe we know to exist.

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Despite many lifetimes of careful observation of the skies, so far no clues have been found to tell us why there is this asymmetry between matter and antimatter. Many scientists have looked in various ways at antimatter, to try to unravel if there is some fundamental difference between it and matter that could have caused this asymmetry. The traditional method is to look at the results of high-energy collisions, for example by using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. However, we are now pursuing a very promising alternative to this.

There is no explanation for this asymmetry, in fact we cannot explain how we can be here, as this asymmetry is required for the universe we know to exist.

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Despite many lifetimes of careful observation of the skies, so far no clues have been found to tell us why there is this asymmetry between matter and antimatter. Many scientists have looked in various ways at antimatter, to try to unravel if there is some fundamental difference between it and matter that could have caused this asymmetry. The traditional method is to look at the results of high-energy collisions, for example by using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. However, we are now pursuing a very promising alternative to this.

Hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe and consists of just one electron and one proton. It’s fair to say that it is the best understood system in physics, both experimentally and theoretically. It also played a key role in the discoveries that led to quantum mechanics. The internal properties of hydrogen have been studied to staggering precision using lasers, and the energy difference between its ground state and the first excited state – where it has excess energy – is known in detail. It is similar to a guitar string – its ground state means the string is not vibrating and an excited state means it is. The more it is vibrating, the more excited it is.

For more than 30 years, researchers have been working to unravel the mystery of antimatter using antihydrogen, and we have just accomplished a major breakthrough.

What we have just done is to shine laser light on trapped antihydrogen atoms and excite them to their first excited state. We can study their behaviour as they gain energy from the laser light – or get excited. Eventually, they break apart – that’s how we could tell they had absorbed the energy.

One reason it has been so hard to do this is that antimatter is always annihilated when it encounters matter. This makes it challenging to store – you can’t just put it in a bottle. However, we have already managed to make and hold antihydrogen using an array of electromagnets that can constrain it, which allowed us to do this research.

This very first measurement allows us to compare hydrogen and antihydrogen with unprecedented precision – indeed, it is the most precise comparison of an atom and an antiatom ever made.

Using this measurement, they look identical, and though that was to be expected, it is the first experimental confirmation. For now, the mystery of the elusive antimatter continues – but it is something we are continuing to pursue.

Niels Madsen is a professor of physics, at Swansea University

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/new-insight-into-elusive-antimatter-can-help-unravel-universe-s-mysteries-a7484951.html

There is as much evidence for the holographic universe as there is for traditional explanations, researchers said

Cosmos by John Hussey

The universe might just be one “vast and complex hologram”. And our vision of life as being in 3D may just be an illusion.

That’s according to astrophysicists who have studied the cosmic microwave background, or the afterglow that is left over from the Big Bang. After doing so, they have found substantial evidence that our universe is holographic, they said.

There is at least as much evidence for the strange theory as there is for the traditional idea of the structure of our universe, according to the astrophysicists from the University of Southampton, who worked with colleagues in Canada and Italy.

What we see of the universe might be compared with what it’s like to watch a 3D film at a cinema, even though those are not made with holograms. Just like those films, we experience the depth of the image – even though we know that it really all comes from a flat screen.

Our universe may just be a more convincing version of the same thing – meaning that we can touch the objects and they look and behave as if they are real.

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What we see of the universe might be compared with what it’s like to watch a 3D film at a cinema, even though those are not made with holograms. Just like those films, we experience the depth of the image – even though we know that it really all comes from a flat screen.

Our universe may just be a more convincing version of the same thing – meaning that we can touch the objects and they look and behave as if they are real.

The idea that our universe is a hologram was first proposed in the 90s. It suggests that all of the information – what we think is our 3D reality, and time – is actually just contained on a flat surface on its boundaries.

“Imagine that everything you see, feel and hear in three dimensions (and your perception of time) in fact emanates from a flat two-dimensional field,” said Kostas Skenderis, a professor of mathematical sciences at the University of Southampton. “The idea is similar to that of ordinary holograms where a three-dimensional image is encoded in a two-dimensional surface, such as in the hologram on a credit card.

“However, this time, the entire universe is encoded.”

“Scientists have been working for decades to combine Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory. Some believe the concept of a holographic universe has the potential to reconcile the two. I hope our research takes us another step towards this.”

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/universe-hologram-holographic-evidence-3d-astrophysics-university-of-southampton-a7553766.html

 

Scientists to uncover the mysteries of ‘Dark Energy’, and whether it even exists at all

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

The research could go one of two ways – both of which would fundamentally alter our understanding of the cosmos

This handout image of the giant, active galaxy NGC 1275, obtained August 21, 2008 was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006 NASA/ESA via Getty Images

Scientists might be about to uncover one of the universe’s biggest mysteries.

A new experiment looks to use gravitational waves – tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime – to unlock the truth of why the universe is expanding so quickly and so unexpectedly.

Astronomers discovered in the 90s that galaxies like our own Milky Way were flying apart super quickly. And they were even more shocked to find that they appeared to be accelerating, picking up speed as they were flung through the cosmos.

They theorised that an unknown and mysterious force, known as Dark Energy, was the cause of the strange behaviour.

Almost a century ago Albert Einstein conjured up a similar concept in his calculations – the Cosmological Constant – but then discarded it, believing he had made a mistake.

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View Sample Video – Cosmology – Universe – Dark Matter and Dark Energy

But there is another possibility – across intergalactic distances, gravity may not work the way it is supposed to.

Now scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe they have found how to resolve the puzzle by measuring the speed at which gravitational waves cross the universe.

If the space-time ripples are shown to propagate at the speed of light, it would rule out alternative gravity theories that exclude Dark Energy.

On the other hand, if their speed ever differs from that of light, the Dark Energy theory would have to be revised.

Such an experiment could be conducted at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Ligo) in the US, whose twin detectors 2,000 miles apart confirmed the existence of gravitational waves for the first time two years ago.

Dr Lucas Lombriser, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Recent direct gravitational wave detection has opened up a new observational window to our universe.

“Our results give an impression of how this will guide us in solving one of the most fundamental problems in physics.”

The new research is published in the journal Physics Letters B.

Gravitational waves are generated by some of the most powerful events in the universe, such as colliding black holes or super-massive neutron stars.

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dark-energy-gravitational-waves-albert-einstein-university-of-edinburgh-milky-way-a7574056.html

Light spotted in space might have spilled through from another universe, scientists say

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

Artist’s conception of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Planck observatory cruising to its orbit ESA/D. Ducros

Scientists might have spotted another universe, just next to ours.

Scientists have spotted a glow in space that might have come from another universe, outside of ours, that we were alongside when the matter that surrounds us first came into existence.

It has long been thought that our universe probably isn’t the only one that emerged from the Big Bang: our universe might just be one bit of an eternally inflating larger thing. Instead, it’s likely that a number of bubbles of different universes emerged — but we’re unlikely ever to be able to get to or know anything about them.

We might be able to get a peek at one if it had started out close enough that they were touching, with those collisions leaving “signatures” in our universe.

To find the traces, scientists compared a map of the cosmic microwave background of the universe — which is made up of light left over from the early universe — with a picture of the entire sky taken by the European Space Agency’s Planck telescope. When they subtracted one from the other, there was an eerie patch of light left in the sky, which could be left over from collisions with other universes.

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The findings — reported by Ranga-Ram Chary in a paper titled ‘Spectral Variations of the Sky: Constraints on Alternate Universes’ this month and reported by New Scientist — show that the universe would have to have a very different makeup to ours. But that is possible, since alternative universes could be wildly different from our own.

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/light-spotted-in-space-might-have-spilled-through-from-another-universe-scientists-say-a6713456.html

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to be Launched Spring 2019

 

Cosmos by John Hussey

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now is planning to launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018.

“The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.”

As part of an international agreement with the ESA (European Space Agency) to provide a desired launch window one year prior to launch, NASA recently performed a routine schedule assessment to ensure launch preparedness and determined a launch schedule change was necessary. The careful analysis took into account the remaining tasks that needed to be completed, the lessons learned from unique environmental testing of the telescope and science instruments at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the current performance rates of integrating the spacecraft element.

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Testing of the telescope and science instruments continues to go well and on schedule at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The spacecraft itself, comprised of the spacecraft bus and sunshield, has experienced delays during its integration and testing at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California.

The additional environmental testing time of the fully assembled observatory–the telescope and the spacecraft–will ensure that Webb will be fully tested before launching into space. All the rigorous tests of the telescope and the spacecraft to date show the mission is meeting its required performance levels.

Existing program budget accommodates the change in launch date, and the change will not affect planned science observations.

“Webb’s spacecraft and sunshield are larger and more complex than most spacecraft.  The combination of some integration activities taking longer than initially planned, such as the installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer,” said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Considering the investment NASA has made, and the good performance to date, we want to proceed very systemmatically through these tests to be ready for a Spring 2019 launch.”

The launch window request has been coordinated with ESA, which is providing the Ariane 5 launch of Webb as part of its scientific collaboration with NASA.

The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next great multi-purpose observatory and will be the world’s most powerful space telescope ever built, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. The 21-foot (6.5-meter) diameter infrared-optimized telescope is designed to study an extremely wide range of astrophysical phenomena: the first stars and galaxies that formed; the atmospheres of nearby planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets; and objects within our own solar system. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Last Updated: Sept. 29, 2017
Editor: Brian Dunbar