New clues about how ancient galaxies lit up the universe

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed that some of the universe's earliest galaxies were brighter than expected. The excess light is a byproduct of the galaxies releasing incredibly high amounts of ionizing radiation. ...

Astronomers unveil the farthest galaxy

An international team of astronomers led by Yale University and the University of California-Santa Cruz have pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age.

Spitzer sees the light of alien 'super earth'

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a "super-Earth" planet beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward ...

Alien Planet Safari

The premiere observatory of the next decade, the James Webb Space Telescope, will launch in 2014 in search of "big game"--namely, the first stars and galaxies ever formed in our Universe. But the "little game" could turn ...

Avatar's moon Pandora could be real

In the new blockbuster Avatar, humans visit the habitable - and inhabited - alien moon called Pandora. Life-bearing moons like Pandora or the Star Wars forest moon of Endor are a staple of science fiction. With NASA's Kepler ...

Finding Twin Earths: Harder Than We Thought

(PhysOrg.com) -- Does a twin Earth exist somewhere in our galaxy? Astronomers are getting closer and closer to finding an Earth-sized planet in an Earth-like orbit. NASA's Kepler spacecraft just launched to find such worlds. ...

NASA's Webb Telescope wrapped in a mobile clean room

Before moving NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, and to assure that it's kept clean and safe, Webb got a very special wrapping treatment. The wrapping acts as a "mobile clean room," safeguarding the technological marvel from ...

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James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a planned infrared space observatory, the partial successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope. The JWST will not be a complete successor, because it will not be sensitive to all of the light wavelengths that Hubble can see. The main scientific goal is to observe the most distant objects in the universe, those beyond the reach of either ground based instruments or the Hubble. The JWST project is a NASA-led international collaboration with contributors in 15 nations, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Originally called the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), it was renamed in 2002 after NASA's second administrator, James E. Webb (1906-1992). Webb had overseen NASA 1961-68 from the beginning of the Kennedy administration through the end of the Johnson administration, thus overseeing all the critical first manned launches in the Mercury through Gemini programs, until just before the first manned Apollo flight.

Current plans call for the telescope to be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2014, on a five-year mission. The JWST will reside in solar-orbit near the Sun-Earth L2 point, which is on a line passing from the Sun to the Earth, but about 1.5 million km farther away from the Sun than is the Earth. This position, which moves around the Sun in exact orbital synchrony with the Earth, will allow JWST to shield itself from infrared from both Sun and Earth, by using a single radiation shield positioned between the telescope and the Sun-Earth direction.

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