The universe is so big that humanity may never discover all of its secrets, but with the James Webb Space Telescope, we are closer than ever to discovering just a few more. This space telescope, which has a launch date of 2019, is the successor to the Hubble. The latter telescope has helped us glimpse the universe for almost 30 years.
What makes the Webb version so special? For starters, it can see farther into deep space. The $8.8 billion Webb Telescope will see, perhaps, billions of years into the past in order to study the formation of the first galaxies in our universe.
NASA has many plans for the Webb. Not only will the telescope let scientists view some of the oldest objects in space, it could also potentially lead us to life on other planets and moons. We may even find liquid water on these bodies.
The Webb Telescope Will See Farther Than The Hubble Telescope
The Hubble can only see light that ranges from about 0.2 to 2.4 microns, so it can’t see anything past near-infrared light. The Webb completely blows away its predecessor.
The Webb Telescope Might Allow Scientists To See The Formation Of The First Galaxies
“Star and planet formation in the local universe take place in the centers of dense, dusty clouds, obscured from our eyes at normal visible wavelengths. Near-infrared light, with its longer wavelength, is less hindered by the small dust particles, allowing near-infrared light to escape from the dust clouds. By observing the emitted near-infrared light we can penetrate the dust and see the processes leading to star and planet formation.”
The Webb Telescope Will Look For Signs Of Life On Europa And Enceladus
Scientists believe that if the geysers do provide heat, the telescope will be able to detect the heat through the infrared light emitted from the moons. One writer mentioned:
“Researchers are hoping that Webb can help to identify regions on the surfaces of these moons where geologic activity, such as plume [geyser] eruptions, are taking place.”
The Webb Telescope Might Find Water On Exoplanets
“One of the JWST’s most notable abilities is that it will be able to detect planets around nearby stars by measuring infrared radiation, and it will even be able to measure the atmospheres of exoplanets by studying the starlight that passes through. By doing this it will be able to determine if an exoplanet has liquid water on its surface.”
The Webb Telescope Will Primarily Observe The Infrared Spectrum
“To see these faint objects, it must be able to detect things that are ten billion times as faint as the faintest stars visible without a telescope.”
The Webb will be to see infrared light and penetrate the dust clouds that block out visible light. The locations of the earliest stars and planets will be much more visible.
The Webb Telescope Will Also Investigate Brown Dwarfs
“Several research teams will use Webb to explore the mysterious nature of brown dwarfs, looking for insight into both star formation and exoplanet atmospheres, and the hazy territory in-between where the brown dwarf itself exists… These observations could lay groundwork for future exoplanet exploration with Webb, including which worlds could support life. Webb’s infrared instruments will be capable of detecting the types of molecules in the atmospheres of exoplanets by seeing which elements are absorbing light as the planet passes in front of its star, a scientific technique known as transit spectroscopy.”
The Webb Telescope Will Launch In 2019
The Webb Telescope Will Work With A Different Wavelength
Infrared light’s three regions on the electromagnetic spectrum emit at longer wavelengths than visible light. Near-infrared is 0.7 to 5 microns, mid-infrared is 5 to 30 microns, and far-infrared is 30 to 1000 microns.
The Webb will be able to see on a wavelength of 0.6 to 28 microns, meaning it will be able to observe objects in the mid-infrared regions.
The Project Will Take Years To Complete
The Webb Telescope Will Not Orbit Earth
“Webb will observe primarily the infrared light from faint and very distant objects. Infrared is heat radiation, so all warm things, including telescopes, emit infrared light. To avoid swamping the very faint astronomical signals with radiation from the telescope, the telescope and its instruments must be very cold.”
The Webb Telescope Is Named After The Second Administrator Of NASA
The Webb Telescope was originally called the Next Generation Space Telescope, but NASA changed the name in 2002.
The Webb Telescope Will Cost Billions Of Dollars To Make
The Webb Telescope Will Embark On A Relatively Short Mission
The length of the Webb’s mission will depend on two main factors – the amount of fuel it uses during orbit and whether any instruments on the telescope malfunctions. Unlike the Hubble, the Webb won’t be serviceable; astronauts won’t be able to fix any damages once the mission begins.
Three Space Agencies Will Get Credit For The Project
Northtrop Grumman contractors developed the spacecraft bus and sun shield, while Ball Aeronautics contractors developed the telescope itself.
The Telescope’s Sun Shield Will Be The Size Of A Tennis Court
“Webb’s operating temperature is less than 50 degrees above absolute zero: 50 Kelvin (-223° C or -370° F). Therefore, Webb has a large shield that blocks the light from the Sun and Earth (and the Moon), which otherwise would heat up the telescope, and interfere with the observations. Webb will be placed in orbit around the Sun at a special location where its sunshield can block both the Sun and Earth (and Moon) all the time.”