Webb scope looks out of this world

Jan 16, 2007

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the orbiting infrared observatory designed to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, is set to enable fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The project is led by NASA, with major contributions from the European and Canadian Space Agencies. The telescope is scheduled for launch in 2013 for a mission of 5-10 years. NASA's Jonathan Gardner and colleagues' comprehensive description of the scientific goals and technical design of the observatory, which can be used by scientists throughout the world in planning for Webb's investigations and discoveries, was recently published in Springer's peer-reviewed journal Space Science Reviews.

Lead author Jonathan Gardner, Chief of the Laboratory for Observational Cosmology at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said: "Many of the most important scientific results from Hubble were not anticipated before its launch in 1990. Similarly, while this publication outlines the scientific goals we have for Webb at this time, my hope is that Webb will make additional discoveries that we can't even imagine now."

The JWST, named after a former NASA Administrator, will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. Webb's instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. The longer wavelengths enable JWST to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today. Webb's scientific goals are split into four distinct themes: The End of the Dark Ages - First Light and Reionization; The Assembly of Galaxies; The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems; and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

The JWST will be launched on an Ariane 5 Enhanced Capability-A rocket into orbit well beyond Earth's Moon, about 1.5 million km (940,000 miles) from the Earth, at the Second Lagrange Point (L2). At that distance from Earth, the telescope will be protected from stray light and heat, yet will remain in an orbit that makes operations and communications easy. Just as importantly, Earth will not obstruct the telescope's view.

The authors conclude: "Regular, competitive peer-reviewed proposal selection will ensure that this international resource will address the most relevant and strongly justified scientific questions, and will leave a legacy of knowledge and discovery for future generations."

The article is freely accessible online via SpringerLink: www.springerlink.com/content/q58315621w03/.

Source: Springer

Explore further: Planets with oddball orbits like Mercury could host life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: NASA's Webb Telescope NIRSpec instrument

Sep 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —A NASA photographer recently captured a "NIRSpec-tacular" photo of an instrument that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope when it launches in 2018.

Hoisting a telescope with helium

Sep 01, 2014

Many a child has forgotten to hold tight to the string of a helium balloon only to have it escape and rise until it disappeared in the glare of the sun. Helium balloons want to rise, but launching a balloon ...

Mysteries of space dust revealed

Aug 29, 2014

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

Aug 20, 2014

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

The future of CubeSats

Aug 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —To investigate climate change, scientists and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are developing the IceCube satellite, which will be no larger than a loaf of bread. In 2016, this ...

Recommended for you

The entropy of black holes

Sep 12, 2014

Yesterday I talked about black hole thermodynamics, specifically how you can write the laws of thermodynamics as laws about black holes. Central to the idea of thermodynamics is the property of entropy, which c ...

Modified theory of dark matter

Sep 12, 2014

Dark matter is an aspect of the universe we still don't fully understand. We have lots of evidence pointing to its existence (as I outlined in a series of posts a while back), and the best evidence we have point ...

Gaia discovers its first supernova

Sep 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —While scanning the sky to measure the positions and movements of stars in our Galaxy, Gaia has discovered its first stellar explosion in another galaxy far, far away.

Astronomers unveil secrets of giant elliptical galaxies

Sep 12, 2014

New findings of how giant elliptical galaxies move have been discovered by an international team of astronomers using the newly installed Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) ...

User comments : 0