ON DECEMBER 3, humanity suddenly had information at its fingertips that people have wanted for, well, forever: the precise distances to the stars.
The James Webb Space Telescope took decades to build. It won’t launch until 2019 at the earliest, it’s slowly but surely making its way toward that distant date, after which it will finally get a chance to capture those first glimpses of galaxies forming in the early universe.
Sometimes, the best telescopes on Earth need a little help making their observations more meaningful. NASA announced yesterday that it had decided to fund the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE, pronounced ix-pee) mission, a polarized X-ray telescope, to help the bigger telescopes explore some of space’s strangest phenomena—including the dead remains of exploded stars and galactic lighthouses called pulsars.