Close your eyes and picture what the Earth looks like. You're probably picturing a circle, mostly blue thanks to the ocean, with swirls of clouds and the occasional green and brown land mass. The entire sphere is floating in a mass of impossible black. You're picturing Earth in a way that you've never actually seen with your own two eyes. Maybe you're getting the sketch from this famous shot, below, known as the blue marble image. Astronauts aboard the Apollo 17 space mission snapped the picture on December 7th, 1972. Countless other images of our home planet have been taken, which have forever shaped our imagination of it. Still, only a handful of humans have seen it with naked eyes.
It's still on Earth for the next two years, but the James Webb Space Telescope turned around to face the world this week, as it moved into position for preliminary optics testing. Once it's launched, JWST will study galaxy, star and planet formation in the universe using infrared wavelengths. For now, you can spy on the cleanroom at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland where JWST is hanging out for the next few months, via the Webb Cam, here.
There are secrets space can't keep. When the National Reconnaissance Office launched an object into space earlier this month, we knew only rough details: the size of the rocket used (large), the nature of the agency launching it (reconnaissance), and the levels of secrecy around the payload (many). Now, thanks to the work of amateur astronomers, we have information that's impossible to conceal: where, exactly, the object is in orbit--plus, what it might be.