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The Wilsonville-based academy's July 12 event will be open in person for the first 100 registrants, and virtually to the first 1,000 registrants.

COURTESY PHOTO: BILL INGALLS, NASA - The James Webb Space Telescope launched in December 2021.

Oregon Charter Academy in Wilsonville will join hundreds of sites across the nation in celebrating the release of the first images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope — the most technologically advanced of its kind — at a July 12 event.

The event, slated for 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, will be free and open to the public. Located at 30485 SW Boones Ferry Rd., #202 in Wilsonville, it is open in person to the first 100 registrants and then first 1,000 virtual registrants as well. Those wishing to register can do so here.

After the telescope mission took off on Dec. 25, 2021, it recently reached its destination, nearly one million miles from Earth. The technology utilized by the operation allows for the universe to be viewed in infrared and will help give insight into the formation of the universe through the study of light.

The July 12 event includes a showing of the recorded NASA broadcast, which highlights the first batch of five images from the telescope and a slideshow featuring information about the telescope and its purpose. Also featured is a Q&A with experts from NASA and an appearance from the University of Oregon's physics department. The department will send members to the event and assist attendees in using special-lensed telescopes, which allow individuals to look directly at the sun.

The charter academy is the only school and one of just seven organizations statewide to be selected to participate in the viewing. Dan Vasen, the principal of the academy's STEM programs and champion of the school's NASA club, said the school learned of the opportunity through the NASA Express newsletter and applied to be one of the organizations to showcase the images.

Additional organizations hosting a viewing include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Evergreen Air and Science Museum, Airway Science for Kids and ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum, although not every organization's event will be held on the same day or during the same timeframe.

"Igniting interest in STEM is imperative to ORCA," Vasen said in a statement. "Providing special opportunities through events like these can stimulate the type of learning that creates passion, while at the same time helping students process classroom topics and their relevance to real world applications."

One of the academy's chief focuses is presenting students with opportunities through enrichment programs such as its three-year-old NASA club, which hosts monthly live streams from NASA space centers to students. The club also provides virtual-reality experiences. In February, a group of nearly 100 academy students and staff watched the Webb Telescope as it reached its final destination.

"The NASA club is just one of the many STEM programs at ORCA," Vasen said. "In an effort to take remote learning to the next level, we'll be partnering with more space centers next year to increase the number of virtual events and the scope of educational enrichment materials provided to ORCA students."

Alongside the academy's monthly livestreams, it will host an event surrounding the Artemis 1 moon rocket launch in August.

To learn more about the Webb telescope, visit webb.nasa.gov.


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