What is the James Webb Space Telescope? What Does it Show Us?
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021 to observe the oldest stars and give us an idea about the past of the universe. The telescope is known as Webb or JWST and is considered as a successor to Hubble which has gained some age but has been remaining as famous as before. Following Hubble, James Webb is the biggest and the most powerful space telescope that has ever been launched into space.
The incredible and sometimes abstract images from space which dazzle us and boggle our minds are gifts of a spacecraft called Hubble. Ever since it was launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has provided a dazzling array of images which have awad and inspired the public. It’s much more than beautiful pictures of course but this amazing spacecraft functions like a time machine. So does his younger brother The James Webb Space Telescope.
The light the telescope views from remote objects reveals how those objects appeared when the light left them, not how they appear today. This means when we look at the Andromeda galaxy, which lies about 2,5 million years from Earth, we see it as it was 2,5 million years ago.
The James Webb space telescope was launched from French Guiana with an Ariane 5 rocket and will be the leading observatory of the coming decade. The Webb telescope was a project run by NASA and 15 other countries as well as The European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency.
With its improved artificial intelligence, Webb will be in service of thousands of astronomers. It has taken 30 years to build the telescope which now will look into concepts like the first bright lights after the Big Bang or the formation of other solar systems as well as our own solar system. Every single move of the telescope can be followed through social media channels.
Exploring the Universe through Infrared Radiation
Webb is equipped with the technology to look into space time which has never been seen before and can generate and send information about the first stars and galaxies dating back to 13,5 billion years. Hubble has been used to create a 3D map of the ‘dark matter’ which remains mysterious to this day.
It’s six times more abundant than the ‘normal matter’ that makes up stars, planets and everything else. The iconic scope has also discovered that major galaxies harbour supermassive ‘black holes’ at their cores. JWST will perhaps help understand these phenomena for it is equipped with a whole different understanding of imaging technologies.
The telescope Works on the “close infrared astronomy” principle as the universe expands continuously. The fact that objects-with-lights emit ultraviolet lights and the visible lights turn to red make the secondary part of this principle. The main three reasons for this are as follows:
Visible emissions of red-like objects can be turned into infrared.
Cold objects like planets and wreck discs emit infrared lights.
This emitted infrared light cannot be observed from earth or nearby telescopes. The Webb telescope however, can detect these changes and record them so that it can send them directly to the scientists by using artificial neurons.
Webb is actually quite a special messenger designed to transmit infrared lights with immense resolution and high sensitivity. It is a powerful tool to observe close-by universes, which can also explore the origins of the stars and find out about their evolution. Thanks to the Webb telescope, far-planets around other stars can be compared with stars. That way the evolution of the Milkyway will be studied.
Webb can also explore the habitable areas of stars and the amount of liquid or water contained in planets. Webb can analyse the chemical structure of the planets using transmission spectroscopy which means observing the light coming from the atmosphere of the planets.
How will the James Webb Space Telescope do all these?
The telescope contains 18 seperate mirror/lens segments which open up and adapt the environment. These mirrors are made of ultra light beryllium, the size of a tennis court each. The heat coming from the sun is reduced by 1 million times protecting the equipment from the sun light with a five layer protection gear. Webb can receive even the faintest signals with the help of the cameras and spectrometers.
NIRSpec, with its micro shutters capable of observing 100 seperate objects at the same time is a powerful tool. Webb started its six-month service at a distance which is 1 million miles away from Earth. The Webb telescope cannot directly see the “dark matter” which consists of galactical masses, but it has the technology that can measure the impacts of it. Its primary mirror is the key component here.
Gravitational core effect is what Webb uses. According to the Relativity Theory of Einstein, light will deviate when passing by large masses. These deviations (curves) can be detected by the telescope allowing it to photograph everything including the space islands. Astronomers then will have the possibility of comparing data. All the data co
llected will eventually be used to understand the nature of the dark matters in the galaxy. There is another aspect we can include in this data collection adventure: Lagrange points. In order to create a stable location from which to make observations, the gravitational forces and the orbital motion of the spacecraft, Sun and the planet need to interact.
There are five other locations around a planet’s orbit where this interaction can take place. These points are called “Lagrange Points”. For instance SOHO, the ESA/NASA solar watchdog is positioned on Lagrange point one (L1). Lagrange Point 2 (L2) is a great place to observe the larger universe.
L2 is located 1,5 million kilometres directly behind the Earth as viewed from the Sun. It’s a perfect spot to observe the larger universe as a spacecraft here does not have to orbit Earth. This means it’s spared from sweeping in and out of the planet’s shadow, heating up and cooling down, distorting its views. ESA has a number of missions there including Planck, Gaia and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Building Webb took an incredibly long time. A design with this nature does not allow maintenance by travelling to the equipment. Here are the specifications of the telescope:
Primary lens dimensions: Radius 21.3 ft (6,5 metres)
Lens form: The lenses consist of 18 hexagons made of gold with moving capability of opening and closing.
Sun Protection: Five-layered sun protection panels are the size of a tennis court.
Webb has 4 scientific tools: Near-range infrared camera (NIRCam), Near-range Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), Medium-range Infrared Device (MIRI), Near-range Infrared camera with sensors (FGS) and near-range spectrograph (NIRISS)
Travel distance: 1 million miles from Earth. (1,5 million km)
Location in space: Second Lagrange point on the orbit of the Sun, (L2). Webb will not stay on this orbit all the time making moves depending on the axis and the movements of the Earth.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the pinnacle of digital imaging at its best and a complex topic which is the product of digitalisation. Learn and understand different topics about digital transformation and the specifics of other digital technology related issues whether it’s Industry 4.0, automation systems or deep tech with Speaker Agency’s Space Speakers. You can simply check our website to meet our experts like Astronaut Garrett Reisman, Andre Borschberg, Larry Downes and David L. Rose in the fields of technology and trends and contact us to meet your tech info needs.