31 Aug Why is the James Webb Space Telescope Such a Big Deal
The JWST, or the James Webb Space Telescope, is the most powerful and largest telescope ever to be created. The telescope was launched into space in late 2021. It was launched from French Guiana, Europe’s Spaceport, at the cost of around 10 billion dollars. As a result, the James Webb Space Telescope can look farther back in time than any other. It can catch the formation of planets and stars and even show the early universe and the beginning of the first galaxies.
Why is the James Webb Space Telescope Such a Big Deal?
The James Webb Space Telescope is the forerunner of the Hubble Space Telescope. Many believe these telescopes will work together, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Hubble Space Telescope uses ultraviolet and optical wavelengths. The JWST uses infrared to capture information. The use of infrared radiation allows the James Webb Space Telescope to peer through dust and gas in the universe so distant and faint objects can be seen more distinctly than ever before.
This telescope was created by an international collaboration between the Canadian Space Agency, NASA, and the European Space Agency. Development for this telescope began in 1996, and the initial launch date was scheduled for 2007. However, it was postponed regularly for 14 years. Rightfully so, many people believe that its voyage would never take place. There was good reason for the telescope delay, the type of orbit it would be completing would make repairs impossible, meaning everything has to be perfect.
The space telescope traveled to its final destination, about 1 million miles in just twenty-nine days. It’s positioned behind Earth in a gravity-stable location. This location is known as Lagrange 2, L2. The telescope orbits in a halo shape, and its positioning allows it to move at a comparatively straight distance from Earth. All the while, it’s keeping out of both the Earth’s and Moon’s shadows. Unlike the Hubble telescope, the JWST will be held in position by the Sun’s orbit. The James Webb Space Telescope’s L2 positioning also requires less fuel, meaning it has a longer mission lifetime of between five and ten years.
This telescope does have a few upgrades when compared to the Hubble. The James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror has a twenty-five square meter area and is six and a half meters in diameter. For reference, that’s three times the size of the mirror used on the Hubble telescope. The five-layer sun-shield on the JWST also doesn’t disappoint; it measures the size of a tennis court.
What Are the Goals of the James Webb Space Telescope?
NASA states that the goals for the James Webb Space Telescope are as follows:
1. Reionization and First Light – the JWST has infrared capabilities that allow it to look back over thirteen and a half billion years to reveal the first galaxies and stars forming in the early universe.
2. Galaxies and Assembly – astronomers will use the information gathered by the telescope to compare the formation of galaxies formed in the early universe with how galaxies come together over billions of years.
3. Protoplanetary Systems and the Birth of Stars – Unlike the Hubble telescope, the Webb Telescope will be able to use its infrared capabilities to look through colossal space dust clouds. This will hopefully reveal to us how stars are born.
4. The Origins of Life and Planetary Systems – the James Webb Space Telescope will tell us more about the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. It also will allow us to study objects in our Solar System.
5 Things That Make it Stand Out From Other Telescopes
It’s a mighty telescope.
It is the most powerful and largest telescope ever to be put in space. Don’t get us wrong, there are large telescopes here on earth, but nothing of this complexity was in space until now. It’s hands down the most powerful thing out there. The Webb is one hundred times more powerful than the Hubble telescope.
It’s kind of like a time machine.
The Hubble telescope was able to show galaxies, but these were galaxies of up to a certain age. The Hubble could see galaxies that were, in terms of age, in their teenage years. With the James Webb Space Telescope, we can see back in time to the earliest things in the universe for the first time.
It allows us to map the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope won’t be able to decisively tell us if there’s life on a planet or not, but it will be able to map out whatever space and tell us, for example, if there may be an ocean there. This will give us a road map to examine things further and really start investigating. The Webb peers into the universe with infrared light. This is crucial because newly forming planets and stars are hidden behind dust. That dust absorbs visible light, which, in the past, prevented us from seeing the new formations. However, infrared light can penetrate that dust.
It could help us find the next Earth.
Scientists are planning to investigate the nature of dark energy in the universe. On top of that, they’re also hoping to understand the nature of the very old objects. Characterizing planets that are around other suns will put us on the path to finding out if there’s another Earth out there. The James Webb Space Telescope will also aid in the discovery of exoplanets, which the Hubble telescope did but was not designed for.
It’s truly a technological coup.
This telescope truly has the potential to change what we know about space. This is because of how dramatically it will increase our view of the universe. With this technology, we will be able to get a much better understanding of the universe we live in.
Webb has a six-and-a-half meter diameter mirror, which gives it about seven times the collecting area when you compare it to the current generation of space telescopes. The Webb telescope also has a significantly larger field of view than the camera on the Hubble telescope does.