James Webb Space Telescope

L2?

James Webb
“Cosmic Cliffs” in Carina

Like many, I’m impressed – totally inadequate description – by the pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope. But long before that, I was wowed by the very process.

Back in December 2021, a segment of 60 Minutes explained the intricacies of just getting the mirror launched.

And as this article in Science stated: “The launch of the $10 billion instrument did not end the tension. To unfurl its giant sunshield, swing six of the 18 segments in the 6.5-meter-wide mirror into position, and extend the secondary mirror on its booms, engineers had to navigate some 300 steps, any one of which could have doomed the mission.”

The fact that these folk had the wherewithal to do it right the first time – because there would be NO do-over – is remarkable.

Popular Mechanics covered this topic a lot. “On January 24, the $10 billion spacecraft conducted the last of its three course-correction burns, placing it into orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange Point (L2), a gravitationally semi-stable location in space aligned with Earth and the sun.

“The five-minute-long maneuver marked the final step in a months-long journey (not to mention decades’ worth of delays), which included a number of hair-raising moments: a tedious boat ride through the Panama Canal, its launch from French Guiana’s Kourou spaceport on Christmas morning last year, and a series of complicated mid-flight unfolding procedures to name a few.’

What is this L2 thing?

“L2 is the perfect perch from which to survey the stars.

“It [took] the observatory roughly 180 days to complete its halo-like orbit around the L2 point—the diameter of this orbit is roughly one million miles, approximately the same distance L2 is from Earth. Because Webb will be in lockstep with our planet as it races around the sun, it will be able to survey the entire sky over the course of a year. (At any given time, it can see about 1/3 of the cosmos.)”

Of course, it does.

And what does that mean?

Popular Mechanics: “NASA’s first fully focused images from the James Webb Space Telescope gaze into the origins of the universe and examine exoplanets that could harbor alien life. The… telescope’s sensors scrutinize targets near and far, from a galactic arm of our own Milky Way to never-before-seen galaxies being born in the deepest reaches of space. Its spectrograph has also divined the chemistry of another planet’s atmosphere from more than 1,000 light-years away, finding a gas giant called WASP-96b hazed with clouds of gaseous water. The resulting images and data showcase the telescope’s unparalleled versatility.

“It’s a moment of triumph for scientists around the world, who now have a groundbreaking tool to aim at humanity’s most existential mysteries. But it’s also a victory for the flight operations teams who shepherded the telescope through the first critical weeks of its mission.”

But what does it ALL mean?

Kelly writes, “Darkness doesn’t last, but science and knowledge do!” Hank Green addresses, in four minutes, the feelings of those who feel particularly small after the discovery. Not specifically addressing the Webb telescope, John Green tries to answer, Why Do Things Exist?

For me, it codifies something I’ve been wondering about since at least the 1970s. There must be many other places where life, as we understand it – or maybe DON’T understand – must exist out there. Maybe, God, or Whoever, keeps running the same experiment to see if They finally get it right. Will people, and I use the term loosely, live in harmony?

Or will they obliterate each other and themselves with war, violence, climate change, and starvation? Those things are interrelated, of course. Perhaps Whoever is trying to figure out how to allow free will and still get it right.

Maybe Their first take was that there would be no free will, perhaps idyllic but boring as heck. There was no music, art, or literature because there was no need.

What do the discoveries mean to YOU, if anything? Maybe you think it was a colossal waste of time and money, which I would vigorously dispute.

Health is a human right

Injustice has a cure

healthI had a spare $15 to spend at the DFTBA store on stuff randomly selected for me. The acronym means Don’t Forget To Be Awesome. I’m familiar with it because I follow the Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green (no relation).

Among the merch, besides a Pizza John mug and various pictures and postcards were two magnets that read; “The idea that some lives matter less is the ROOT of all that’s wrong with the world.” – Paul Farmer.

Of course, I needed to know who this guy is. He’s a physician and anthropologist. The statement is “shorthand for the mission statement of Partners In Health (PIH), the organization he helped found three decades ago to advance the belief that health is a human right.

“With a growing team of health care professionals, volunteers, and donors, Farmer is spreading his philosophy of social justice and quality medical care to the most destitute parts of the world.”

The Vlogbrothers are supporting the PIH initiative to A Bold Solution to a Maternal Health Crisis in Sierra Leone, where “1 in 17 women run the risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth.” I had made a contribution to this specific PIH project last year, and will likely do so again in 2021.

There are PIH programs around the world, including the Navajo Nation. PIH “acts on the belief that the best way to guarantee high-quality, dignified care is to rely upon and invest in local health systems.

“What does building a health system look like? It requires–among many things–well-trained staff; proper and ample medications and supplies; health facilities with reliable space, electricity, and running water; and universally shared best practices that ensure patients receive quality care.”

Or

I’m not suggesting that Partners In Health is the only vehicle for addressing health crises, only the one that appealed to me. I would however suggest that, before donating to any cause, check out the Charity Navigator. This link vets 900+ health-related organizations. PIH, BTW, received four stars.

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Norman Rockwell painting The Jury (1959)
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MUSIC

Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin), Arthur Rubinstein School of Music Symphony Orchestra with the young Polish pianist Maja Babyszka. Conductor: Henryk Wierzchoń. June 21, 2015

Rodgers and Hammerstein music at the BBC Proms

Thirty Seconds to Mars – Brooklyn Duo (Cello & Piano Cover of The Kill song)

All My Lovin’ – Amy Winehouse

K-Chuck Radio – Upstairs with Yaz

Someone to Watch Over Me – Sleeping At Last

MOZART Symphony No 40 in G minor KV550, LEONARD BERNSTEIN, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

A Reason To Fight – Disturbed

Evil Ways – Willie Bobo

Outside the trains don’t run on time – Gang of Four

Mary Poppins rag

Coverville – 1235: Cover Stories for Olivia Newton-John and The Mamas and The Papas

Giacchino Rossini’s overture to his opera William Tell

Vinyl records hit all the right notes

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