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Telescopes Bring Space Wonders and Ancient Galaxies into Focus


Telescopes let us peer into galaxies and mysteries of the universe. Recent science news reveals how the most modern of these devices give us a front row seat to showstopping star explosions and help astronomers hunt for other habitable worlds. But telescopes capture more than just interstellar wonder: Not long after its debut, the James Webb Space Telescope detected the most distant galaxy ever discovered, letting us look back into billions of light-years of time.

NASA reports how the Webb telescope has detected earliest born stars yet seen, with light from these galaxies taking billions of years to reach us. One of the Webb telescope’s features, the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) microshutter, observed 48 individual galaxies at once. The data captured from the spectrograph—a new technology used for the first time in space—revealed light from one galaxy that traveled for an astounding 13.1 billion years before it was captured by Webb’s mirrors.

A Glimpse at Telescope Technology

Webb telescope detectors can capture infrared wavelengths to give us a glimpse of galaxies that are invisible to the naked eye, and a recent article published in Popular Mechanics breaks down the science behind the astronomical views of Glass-Z13, the most distant galaxy ever seen, upon its discovery.

The Webb telescope is capable of detecting thermal energy from far across the universe, and three of its infrared detectors arm it with the ability to peer farther back in time than any other telescope has so far, the article explains.

Webb’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), the telescope’s primary imager, covers the infrared wavelength range 0.6 to 5 microns. NIRCam can detect light from the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation, the population of stars in nearby galaxies, as well as young stars in the Milky Way and Kuiper Belt objects, as NASA elaborates.

“By the time light from GLASS-z13—formed 300 million years after the Big Bang—reaches our telescopes, it has been traveling for more than 13 billion years, a vast distance all the way from a younger universe,” Popular Mechanics reports.

Did you know? Humans can glimpse only about 0.0035 percent of the light in the universe with our naked eyes. Source: Popular Mechanics.

Standards that support our quest to view ancient galaxies include standards like ISO 14490, parts 1-10, which covers different elements of optics and photonics related to the test methods for telescopic systems, from astronomical to binocular systems guidance. ISO 14490 was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 172, Optics and photonics, Subcommittee 4, Telescopic Systems. The Optics and Electro-Optics Standards Council administers the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to this TC.

To support space expeditions and explorations, SAE AS 9100D / SAE AS 9101F / SAE AS 9102B - Aviation and Space Quality Management Systems Package, establishes the requirements to implement a quality management system for defense organizations and aviation and space industries. It also provides the audit requirements for aviation, space, and defense organizations, along with the first article inspection requirements. The standards were developed by SAE International.

ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator, has published several standards that support thermography, including: ASTM E2582-21, Standard Practice for Infrared Flash Thermography of Composite Panels and Repair Patches Used in Aerospace Applications. The document describes a procedure for detecting subsurface flaws in composite panels and repair patches using Flash Thermography, in which an infrared camera is used to detect anomalous cooling behavior of a sample surface after it has been heated with a spatially uniform light pulse from a flash lamp array.

Standards help us study the intergalactic by enabling safer missions to space and supporting the tools that give us a front row view to stunning celestial sights.

Read the Popular Mechanics article: How Light Travels: Telescopes Can Show Us the Invisible Universe.

Read about the Near Infrared Camera via NASA.