Oh, the shade of it all.
On Wednesday the official NASA Twitter account for the James Webb Space Telescope appeared to be starting some serious space beef with a few of its bigger siblings. The account tweeted screenshots of the official NASA accounts for the sun, the moon, and even Earth, all of which were shown as blocked.
Sorry, space beef fans, but it was all in service of teaching you a little something about how this magnificent piece of machinery works. The telescope — the actual one up in space, not the personified one with a Twitter account — had successfully deployed its enormous sunshield, which was folded up in order to fit inside the rocket for its Dec. 25 launch. The shield, made of hair-thin plastic sheets and coated with reflective metal, will protect the precision scientific instruments from the heat and light of the sun, moon, and Earth.
The “blocked” accounts were clearly unblocked after the screenshots were taken for the joke, because all three jumped into @NASAWebb’s replies with an astronomical amount of puns.
The JWST, the biggest and most powerful space telescope ever built, is on its way to its observing position a million miles from Earth, with lots more setting up to keep it busy on the journey. The sunshield plays a crucial role in the observatory’s function — its instruments must be kept below -380 degrees Fahrenheit in order to pick up on the faint heat of infrared light.
We can look forward to the first pictures from the JWST around June, once it’s in position, fully set up, and properly calibrated. Until then, its wholesome Twitter presence is clearly ready to keep us entertained.