NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has taken off! It’s an exciting day for the space enthusiasts among us. And while you may not be as familiar with space exploration and discovery, the Webb Telescope has exciting potential that will impact all of us here on planet Earth. The media have described the telescope’s journey as a quest “on the edge of time itself” and scientists anxiously await new data on the birth of the universe as the telescope kicks into action.

Today we’re going to take a look at the details of the James Webb Telescope, what scientists predict this technology can accomplish, and what it could mean for us here on the Earth’s surface as we go through tough times on scale. global and local.

For as vast and vast as our native galaxy is, our connections to each other and the questions that inspire these pursuits define our species and inform critical information and survival – on this planet and beyond.

The James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Telescope (JWST) was launched on Christmas morning, December 25, 2021. At the same time that many children around the world rushed to see what Christmas presents had landed from Santa Claus overnight, the JWST took off from Ariane 5. The launch pad is part of the European spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana. The rocket ignited and sent the telescope out of our atmosphere and into space. “We expect to see the light of the first galaxies which formed a hundred of [million], 200 million years after the Big Bang, ”NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a recent briefing.

The big picture behind a powerful telescope

NASA developed the JWST in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA). The intention behind the JWST is for it to succeed and expand the Hubble Space Telescope, which has enchanted scientists and children for the past 30 years. The Hubble Telescope has succeeded in determining the age of our universe (13.8 billion years). He helped scientists discover two moons around Pluto. The Hubble images have helped calculations on how fast the universe is expanding. It illuminated that almost every galaxy we’ve discovered so far has a black hole, anchoring its center. The JWST is the next step in these significant leaps in our cosmic understanding.

Even though JWST is intended to replace Hubble, it’s actually only half the size of the old space telescope. However, Webb’s main mirror is over 6 times the size of Hubble’s. The mirror measures 21 feet in diameter. Made of gold-plated beryllium reflector, it has 18 hexagonal mirrors. Scientists designed the Webb Telescope in this way to provide improved infrared resolution of images and will also enable an exciting amount of new research in the fields of astrophysics, astronomy and cosmology.

Design elements

An essential design element of the telescope is its lens hood. The sun visor is important because the mirrors must be cold and out of the heat of the sun. It is designed to always block the mirrors of the sun, moon and earth and will passively radiate heat from the telescope into space. The shield is made of 5 layers. Each successive layer is cooler than the previous one. The vacuum created between each layer works as an insulation, which disrupts heat conduction better than a single large layer. Overall, the shield will protect the telescope so that sensitive scientific instruments are better able to detect infrared light from very distant and faint objects.

Instruments

The Integrated Scientific Instrument Module (ISIM) is the frame of the telescope. It integrates four scientific instruments as well as a guidance camera. The four instruments are: the NIRCam (Near InfraRed Camera) which is an infrared imager; NIRSpec (Near InfraRed Spectrograph) will also perform spectroscopy over the same wavelength range; MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument) will measure the wavelength range of mid to long infrared from 5 to 27 m; and FGS / NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) – which will stabilize the sighting light from the telescope’s observatory.

There is also a “spaceship bus” – a term that, if you grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s, may remind you of Mrs. Frizzle and her magic school bus, but actually refers to the main element of telescope support. which will provide computation, communication, electrical power, propulsion and structural parts to the telescope as a whole.

These scientific instruments and frameworks add up to form one incredible piece of space technology. This technology allows for ongoing investigations and explorations to be determined which will include very large-scale elements of our universe. But what exactly do we hope to find in the far reaches of space? Extraterrestrials?

What scientists hope to find

When Homo sapiens looks up to the sky, we tend to ask big questions. What we look for up there in the stars can be an ineffable dilemma – but it can also be a scientific hypothesis. Telescopes have already taught us a lot about our solar system. From Aztec star maps in the Netherlands in the 1600s, to Galileo and until today, these discoveries have shaped our species and planted seeds of cosmic curiosity.

With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, there is a continuing legacy of hopes, dreams, assumptions, and explorations that become possible for us as a species. There are big questions to pursue – as they have been in every decade of our evolution.

Examples specific to this telescope launch include the formation of early galaxies and the potential identification of habitable exoplanets and their atmospheres. We may be able to see the first stars to light up the universe. The telescope will be able to observe black holes and quasars with unmatched sensitivity and detail, perhaps revealing the mysteries of their complex structures.

According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, JWST has the potential to “unlock the secrets of the universe.” It may sound like a science fiction novel to the uninitiated – but it’s real life, in the real world, floating in a real universe and fascinating principles of mystery and astronomy. The first images from the Webb telescope are expected to arrive in the summer of 2022.

Who is James Webb?

Obviously, the stakes are quite high as is the anticipation. While we wait for the telescope images to arrive, maybe we can take the time to ask ourselves: who is James Webb? And why did NASA and its global collaborators choose to give this incredible telescope its name?

Webb ran the fledgling space agency, NASA, from 1961 to 1968 and is most closely linked to the Apollo space program of that time. To many, he is a government figure whose work has balanced human curiosity and spaceflight with science. According to the NASA online site, Webb “has done more for science than perhaps any other government official and it is only fitting that the next-generation space telescope bears his name.” There has been controversy over Webb’s legacy and his potential involvement in the ‘fear of lavender’ that has taken place in NASA history – an assault on LGBTQ workers for whom there is a continued need for reconciliation. . NASA refused to change the name.

When NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe announced the name of JWST, he explained that “[James Webb] took our nation on its first voyages of exploration, turning our imaginations into reality.

Space science and travel in the time of the coronavirus

It is a defining moment in history. An end-time telescope, named after a man whose life’s work was dedicated to human curiosity and potential, launched on Christmas Day amid a poignant global pandemic. 2021 has been a year characterized by disinformation, horrific politics and the crumbling social structures we all depend on – and also, apparently, hope and optimism via a telescope. It’s a lot to take.

The questions surrounding how we use our resources and who decides are an emotional debate. We do not all agree and an acute crisis surrounds all but the lucky ones of our species. Billionaire business owners are launching into space as their workers contract a deadly virus by working in warehouses for wages that don’t cover even the most basic living expenses. Where does space travel and space science fit into all of this? Especially when a project like JWST comes at a high cost, of course. The cost of commissioning the telescope has so far amounted to $ 8.8 billion. Our dominant culture comes from the fact that our resources are not infinite. Our planet has limits that will require our adherence, one way or another.

In conclusion, a great start

The Webb Telescope is not an impulsive whim of spending and space colonization. This technology has been in development since the 1980s. This telescope and observatory has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe – and to better inform our understanding of how our planet and our species fit into this cosmic web.

And boy, do we ever need a little perspective. As the omicron variant rages through our communities, we will all respond to these philosophical and tangible debates based on our lived experiences and value systems. Perhaps the James Webb Space Telescope, in addition to shedding light on some theories of astronomy and cosmology, could also apply to our everyday, mundane life. What does it mean to turn our imaginations into reality? What would our own planet be like if we could cultivate connecting relationships and shared curiosity?