Celebration of Space - March 25, 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope mirror segment alignment evaluation image. Credit: NASA/STScI

The James Webb Space Telescope mirror segment alignment evaluation image. Credit: NASA/STScI

On Friday, April 1, 2022, the annual 401 Gives campaign happens. This is a day to support your favorite non-profit organizations in Rhode Island. The event is organized by the United Way of Rhode Island, and is a very important fundraiser for Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center. When you donate to Frosty Drew, you are enabling us to not only continue the fantastic programs and events that we are known for, but also allows us to build out new programs, additional presentation stations, and increase the reach of our message of inspiration and enlightenment. The first person to put their boots on Mars is walking around on Earth right now, they do not know it is them, and they are currently a child. At Frosty Drew we want all children to know and understand that they have that opportunity! We want to plant the seed that inspires them to reach for the sky.

Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center will be hosting an online, and an on site event next Friday, which will roll into our regular Stargazing Nights event. We will broadcast live and archived content starting at 7:00 am, including personal messages from the Frosty Drew Astronomy Team members, archived telescope views of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and more, video reels of our new telescope, as well as recent celestial images that we have captured at Frosty Drew. Our on site event starts at 3:00 pm and will have our solar telescopes set up in the Observatory Courtyard offering live views of the Sun, tours of the Observatory and our new 24 inch PlaneWave telescope, and story time Under the Willow – our recent station addition.

We will send out another email this week specifically about our fundraiser. But in the meantime check out our event page, and our 401 Gives page to learn about our plans for the day and what the different donation levels are that we are offering.

On March 11, 2022 the Fine Phasing stage of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mirror alignment procedure was completed. At this time all 18 mirror segments are precisely aligned and functioning as one large 21.25 foot mirror! Over the past few months we have shared the images that were captured by the JWST during the mirror segment alignment processes. All of these images were of a rather dim star that was largely alone in the field of view. The first image had 18 copies of the star scattered around the image. The second image had 18 copies of the star correctly aligned in regards to each segment. The third image had all 18 copies of the star stacked on top of each other. Well check out this image of all 18 segments working together to produce an image of the star without any copies. So the star itself is much brighter, but look around the background of the image. Most of those objects are galaxies. Now zoom in on the image background and check out some of those galaxies. Fantastic! Keep in mind that this is just a calibration image and is nowhere near the quality that the telescope is capable of. The team that is working on the JWST mirror alignment stated that everything is working at, or above, expectations, and that no critical issues have been found. Next steps will take that precision alignment and apply it to all other instruments on the JWST. Take a moment to catch up on what the team has done and what is in store for the JWST.

Over the next several mornings, a fantastic conjunction is taking place in the predawn sky. Venus, Saturn, and Mars have been putting on a stunning celestial dance, and will be joined by the waning crescent Moon on the mornings of March 27 and March 28, with the latter being the biscuit view! To catch a view, set out to a location with a reasonably good view of the SE horizon, and be there for 5:30 am. Look to the SE and you will spot Venus shining super brightly, like an airplane. Just below Venus is Saturn, and the small reddish star-like object that forms a triangle with the other two is Mars. Every morning this weekend will be a good opportunity to catch a view. But if you want the Moon to join in, Sunday and Monday will be your chance. This is also a fantastic photo op! Note that if you set out earlier on the 28th, you can catch the Milky Way rising off the SE horizon. What a night!

Evening passes of the International Space Station (ISS) and Tiangong (China’s space station) continue this weekend and coming week. Evening passes present a fantastic opportunity to get outside with your family for an inspirational view. Here are some notable passes happening over our region for the next several nights:

Fri, Mar 25 at 8:28 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 14°, heading towards the NE
Sat, Mar 26 at 7:39 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 15°, heading towards the NNE
Sun, Mar 27 at 8:29 pm, starting in the NNW, rising to 16°, heading towards te NE
Mon, Mar 28 at 9:17 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 26°, and into orbital sunset
Tue, Mar 29 at 8:29 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 24°, heading towards the NE, and into orbital sunset
Wed, Mar 30 at 9:18 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 39°, and into orbital sunset.
Thu, Mar 31 at 8:30 pm, starting in the NW, rising to 45°, heading towards the ENE, and into orbital sunset

Fri, Mar 25 at 7:47 pm, starting in the W, rising to 80°, heading towards the ESE, and into orbital sunset ← Awesome pass!
Sat, Mar 26 at 8:22 pm, starting in the W, rising to 42°, heading towards the SSE, and into orbital sunset
Sun, Mar 27 at 8:57 pm, starting in the WSW, rising to 17°, heading towards the SW and into orbital sunset
Mon, Mar 28 at 7:55 pm, starting in the W, rising to 29°, heading towards the SE

Note that these pass times are best for residents of Southern New England, but are applicable for the entire Northeast region. For a daily digest of pass times for the stations and other bright satellites visit the Frosty Drew Daily Satellite Pass Prediction Utility. Now put these times on your calendar and set your alarms to add a little amazement to your week.

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Mar 25, 2022
Published Under:
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