If you are interested in astronomical discoveries in a little more detail, you will come across a light curve. This is a graph of clarity versus time. It therefore monitors the change in brightness of the object over time. It can be a star that passes in front of a distant star and bends and amplifies its light, the transit of a planet, a variable star or perhaps an asteroid. As the asteroid rotates, it leans towards us with variously large parts of the surface, which is reflected in its clarity.
JWST light curves
But the hit of recent days is a slightly unconventional object in the solar system – the James Webb Space Telescope. A few days ago, he completed the unfolding process and is moving on to adjusting the primary mirror segments. The optics are on the cold side, which we do not see. JWST “looks” at us on the hot side, which faces the Earth and also the Sun.
We observe a part of the bus, a solar panel, but above all a large sun visor, which protects the JWST from heat so that it can work at low temperatures and observe in the infrared part of the spectrum.
The screen has a size of 22 meters x 14 meters has five layers. Each is about the size of a tennis court but is as thin as human hair and is coated with aluminum for reflectivity.
JWST is gradually reaching point L2, but astronomers are still watching it. Light curves appear on the Internet. Probably the best published by Peter Plavchan, who observed JWST from the George Mason University Observatory. In the video below you can see JWST on a starry background.
Plavchan observed JWST for over 6 hours. And there was definitely something to look at. The brightness of JWST changed dramatically, as shown by the light curve.
The light curve is symmetrical. If you don’t see it in the first picture, look at the next one.
Why does JWST change clarity? The reason is actually similar to the “piglets” thrown by some satellites. In this case, the JWST is not to blame, but our planet, which “below” the JWST is gradually rotating. First we observe reflections from the structures on one side of the sunshade, which is symmetrical, so a few hours later we see the same in the inverted guard.
It’s a bit of an exaggeration to confirm that the shutter is laid out correctly. There are no cameras on board the JWST for many good reasons, so scientists are only referring to data – such as the temperatures in different parts of the telescope. However, as can be seen, external data will also help.
Do you want to wave JWST?
You won’t see JWST without binoculars and the necessary knowledge. But if you want to at least wave at him, it’s easy! JWST is now moving in the constellation Unicorn. The unmistakable constellation Orion, or the very bright star Sirius, will help you find it above the southeastern horizon.
Unicorn constellation. Photo: Stellarium
If you happen to want to observe the Hubble telescope, you can do with the naked eye. It has been in Earth’s orbit for more than 32 years. But there is a catch. Hubble orbits at an inclination of only about 28 degrees to the equator, so it is not observable from our latitudes. However, if you wander closer to the equator, you can find its flights, for example, on a familiar page www.heavens-above.com.