Looking Back, Looking Foreward: James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is in its final testing stage, and set for launch in October 2018. The telescope was originally set for launch in 2014, but delays and budget cuts set the project back.

The telescope is currently at the Johnson’s Space Center in Houston. Testing is underway to see if the telescope will still function at a temperature of almost absolute zero.

Scientists are excited about JWST because it will be the most powerful telescope in space so far. JWST will replace the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in space for about 27 years. JWST will examine deep space and deep time to see the first galaxies, look for forming planetary systems, and pinpoint exoplanets.

Because JWST will be looking for incredibly cold, far-away objects and events, it has to run at a low temperature itself. This can pose a problem for the equipment.

TRAPPIST-1a, a star about 40 light-years away, became an internet hit in February after NASA announced they had found seven exoplanets obiting around it. This is the most amount of exoplanets we have discovered orbiting a single star, outside of our own solar system, of course.

The planetary system was named after The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. Scientists used this telescope to find three of the exoplanets.

From Galileo to NASA, astronomers have used telescopes to examine the stars and planets. Several of the telescopes have been launched into space: these telescopes are not bothered by atmospheric distortion or light pollution.

Having looked up into the night sky myself and felt wonder and curiosity, I am excited for what JWST will bring to the table.

(Featured photo from Unsplash)


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