Webb Telescope

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Webb Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope has revealed some of the earliest galaxies in the universe — “cities” of stars as they looked when the universe was about half a billion years old. Astronomers would like to see even deeper, though — to the time when the first galaxies were taking shape. And if everything goes well, they’ll soon get a new tool for the search.

James Webb Space Telescope is being prepared for launch this fall. It’s the largest space telescope ever built. Its main mirror spans about 21 feet. And it will collect almost seven times as much light as Hubble. That will allow the telescope to see galaxies taking shape roughly a quarter of a billion years after the Big Bang. Those observations will help scientists understand how massive clouds of gas and dust came together to make stars and galaxies.

Webb is designed to study the universe at infrared wavelengths, which are invisible to the human eye. Most infrared comes from objects that are fairly cool. That includes clouds that are giving birth to stars, and disks around stars that are giving birth to planets. It also includes the planets themselves — those orbiting other stars, and those in our own solar system. Webb will try to measure the atmospheres of some of those distant worlds. If any of them have life, the telescope might be able to see some of the chemistry it produces — sniffing out signs of life with a giant new “eye” in space.

We’ll have more about the James Webb Space Telescope tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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