Tag Archives: James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s Budget Cuts Felt on Mars

21 Feb

The largest Space Agency in the world, NASA, is due to have its spending budget cut significantly as of next year in an attempt to drive down the national debt the United States currently possesses. President Barack Obama revealed plans to slice the government’s allowance to the aeronautics institute when previously stating it would be increased to fund current and future missions.

Projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope will suffer heavily by this action, that is sure to dent the countries hopes of remaining in pole position in the on-going space race. The cut may not seem a lot, penciled currently at $17.7 billion from previously $17.8 billion, but with America’s money going elsewhere, this is a huge blow for mans progression into space.

NASA’s planetary division will see a cut of $300 Million which is sure to stunt the growth of some of the most innovative space programs to date. Reports convey that the percentage cut could have been substantially more at 15% rather than the 5% that was implemented. Still, brand new missions are sure to be pushed back or scraped by the agency altogether in an attempt to spread spending.

Missions to Mars are likely to be worst hit. Scientists in charge of current Martian missions will have to decide whether to fund new projects to the planet or to keep the current missions including the explorer rovers and orbiting satellites. The MAVEN mission, a satellite designed to detect previous evidence of water on the red planet, will still go ahead next year but this has also had serious reductions.

Other areas that have seen dramatic cuts is Education which suffered a drop of 38.5%,  many planetary scientists think this is wrong. Phil Plait; Astronomer and MC at Bad Astronomy says:

“That money funds a vast amount of educational outreach – and I should know. That funding does a huge amount of good for schoolkids, and cutting it is a mistake”.

Rather than help the progression of mankind’s exploration of the Universe the US government proved it would prefer to aid the crusade outside its own borders by subsequently releasing that the Defence budget for 2013 would reach $851 billion. This figure out weighs the cost of healthcare and social security within America as well as NASA’s sliced budget.

Significant budget cuts like this are sure to be felt worldwide and beyond as human kind’s stance of the edge of discovery is pushed back. Missions to Mars are key to our appreciation of life and the understanding of various environments out in deep space. Scientist’s predictions of having a man on Mars in 30 years seems that much further away. Unless private space flight is mainstreamed or Russia takes the lead in the space race NASA will begin to fall behind where before it was so integral to our understanding of creation.

[COSMIC BODIES] – Galaxies Far Far Away

19 Sep

When humans think about distances in space, it is almost impossible to comprehend the vast expanse in between different masses. In a humans mind circumnavigating the globe is a huge deal, the time it would take is almost inconceivable let alone the distance. Scientists however will continue to strive in order to see further into the universe and therefore longer back in time. Images are just starting to reach us of some of the oldest known bodies within the universe and lots more discoveries are sure to come; hopefully with the notion of letting us understand where we come from.

Until recently the oldest known objects in space, except the universe itself, have thought to be stars, or gamma ray bursts as these stars explode, but now there is evidence to suggest that the galaxies, containing these stars are much older than thought previously. The universal limit for age is set by the boundaries of the universe, which is considered to be as old as 13.75 billion years old. These galaxies come pretty close to this age, in astrological terms.

Galaxies consist of a huge collection of stars orbiting a central core; this is thought to be a super-massive black hole, although this is not yet official. Galaxies range in sizes, our galaxy, the ‘Milky Way’, is thought to contain between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. Our closets neighboring galaxy ‘Andromeda’ is thought to have a mass of three trillion stars with a diameter of 250,000 light-years.

A light year is a measurement of distance, unsurprisingly, the distance it takes light to travel in one year. Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second that is 671 million miles an hour. Keep that astronomical speed in mind as we delve further into the cosmos.

In September 2009 a group of astronomers handling the ‘Hubble Ultra Deep Field Telescope’ (HUDF) came across what was soon to be spectroscopically confirmed as the furthest, and therefore the oldest, object to be discovered in the universe.

What the scientist had found was a galaxy some 13.1 billion light-years away, meaning it was only 600 million years younger than the universe itself.  Scientists believe that galaxies only start to form at a limit of 200 million years after the Big Bang, meaning that this galaxy was formed during what is known as the ‘Reionization Epoch’, a period in which galaxies were forming at the fastest rate.

This galaxy was soon to be named by those who found it as UDFy-38135539 or HUDF.YD3 and it even featured on the television series presented by Professor Brian Cox, ‘Wonders of the Universe’.

Arguably it is a small galaxy registering one billion stars that covers just one- tenth the diameter of the Milky Way. However when thinking about those numbers it gives even the experienced travellers amongst us severe jet lag.

Now here is the even more exciting bit…

As soon as January of the next year an even older galaxy was discovered and this now holds the record for the oldest known object in the cosmos. Similarly named UDFj-39546284 is roughly 150 millions years older than the previous, although it has not yet been spectroscopically verified.

It is thought confirmation of this galaxy will occur when NASA and ESA launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) planned for 2018. ESA also have another telescope in range in which they hope to have operational at the beginning of the next decade. The European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will help us not only understand how galaxies and planets are formed but should aid us in looking into the recesses of the universe in a hope to understand where we came from and ultimately where we are going.