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That Was the Week that Was, March 7-11, 2011. . . Coolest Goddard People, Science, & Media PLUS Best of the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

March 11, 2011 2 comments


photo of isim on goddard centrifuge

A big chunk of the Webb Telescope goes out for a spin: This week a web feature story came out about ongoing testing of the metal cage that will hold the various scientific instrument on the Webb Telescope – the heir to the Hubble Space Telescope now under construction here at Goddard and elsewhere in NASA.

Webb will undergo significant shaking when it is launched on the large Ariane V rocket. To be sure the telescope’s “chassis” is ready for this “bumpy road,” the ISIM is subjected to some extreme testing.  During the testing process, the ISIM is spun and shaken while many measurements are taken. Afterwards, engineers compare the measurements with their models of the ISIM. If there are discrepancies, then the engineers track down why, and make corrections.


That centrifuge is a pretty impressive piece of hardware, let me tell you. Months ago, I got a chance to film a preliminary spin-up test of the giant centrifuge. This thing, at full throttle, can spin about once every two seconds. The test I saw was a lot tamer than that, spinning at roughly 2 rpm. Check it out:




The centrifuge room is pretty noisy, and the equipment is massive — on the order of a half-million pounds. And so it starts out slow. But gradually it picks up speed. At very high speed, it’s way too dangerous to be in the room. (The engineers work in a separate control room during actual tests.) If even a small bit of hardware were to fly off the centrifuge, it could cause a serious injury. My friend Jay Friedlander (the cameraman) and I were very grateful to the engineers for letting us witness an actual spin-up of the centrifuge — an uncommon site at Goddard.

Here comes the sun on the Goddard Flickr channel: The Goddard Flickr channel was all aglow this week with images of the sun, courtesy of NASA’s solar observing fleet. A web feature by one of Goddard’s newest solar scribes, Karen Fox, announced the 400-year anniversary of the first scientific publication about sunspots. Goddard’s Flickr photomistress, Rebecca Roth, obliged with an entire set of spectacular sun imagery. Here is my favorite, a super-high-resolution image of a sunspot by the Hinode spacecraft. Go to the Flickr set to see the rest.

hinode spacecraft image of sunspot

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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