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: An old-looking galaxy in a young universe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New method makes space weather easier to predict

8 hours ago

Scientists can now gain a better understanding of space weather – the dreaded solar winds and flares – thanks to the development of high spatial resolution observation and computing methods. For the first ...

Monster black hole discovered at cosmic dawn

Feb 25, 2015

Scientists have discovered the brightest quasar in the early universe, powered by the most massive black hole yet known at that time. The international team led by astronomers from Peking University in China ...

The controversy over interstellar messaging

Feb 20, 2015

Should we beam messages into deep space, announcing our presence to any extraterrestrial civilizations that might be out there? Or, should we just listen? Since the beginnings of the modern Search for Extraterrestrial ...

SETI scientists say it's time to send messages to ET

Feb 14, 2015

Scientists want to contact extraterrestrial civilizations. Some applause the effort. Others say this is not a good plan at all. The idea is for messages encoded in radio signals to be sent repeatedly for ...

Recommended for you

An old-looking galaxy in a young universe

19 hours ago

A team of astronomers, led by Darach Watson, from the University of Copenhagen used the Very Large Telescope's X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe ...

Giant methane storms on Uranus

21 hours ago

Most of the times we have looked at Uranus, it has seemed to be a relatively calm place. Well, yes its atmosphere is the coldest place in the solar system. But, when we picture the seventh planet in our ...

Where do stars form in merging galaxies?

23 hours ago

Collisions between galaxies, and even less dramatic gravitational encounters between them, are recognized as triggering star formation. Observations of luminous galaxies, powered by starbursts, are consistent ...

Could the Milky Way become a quasar?

Feb 27, 2015

A quasar is what you get when a supermassive black hole is actively feeding on material at the core of a galaxy. The region around the black hole gets really hot and blasts out radiation that we can see billions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.