James Webb Space Telescope’s Next Targets Are Potentially Stunning


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With release First images from the James Webb Space Telescope on July 12. (as well as dastardly exposure of US President Joe Biden July 11), NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency have proven that a $10 billion telescope at a distance of 1 million miles from Earth, which has been dreamed of for two decades, actually works. And it works impeccable. Just take look at the improved visuals Webb has provided over its predecessor, Hubble.. These are visceral masterpieces that make us think of the magnificence of the universe and contemplate the tiny corner of our solar system within.

But what we saw in early July was just a preface to the JWST book. In later chapters his legacy will be written.

Although the telescope’s first full-color results were excellent, this is just a test of the instrument’s capabilities. In truth, we may not even have words to describe what is coming, just as the first light image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope could not herald the amazing deep fields that will one day plaster the walls of the astronomy department, or the nebulae that inspire poetry.


Five galaxies frozen in dance make up the Stefan Quintet. JWST images released July 12, 2022.


But we might be able To make a conclusion some scenes from the future of the JWST, because even though this telescope is known to the public, scientists have been lining up for years to use it.

Researchers are already determined to point it out to phenomena that will amaze you: massive black holes, collapsing mergers of galaxies, luminescent binary stars emitting smoke signals, and even wonders closer to home like Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede.

In particular, the first few lucky scientists have proposals divided into six categories, each carefully selected by the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee and the Space Telescope Science Institute in November 2017, not to mention more than 200 international projects separately earmarked for participation in the program. telescope and those who are ready to join the waiting list.

But the initial line-up of JWST space explorers should be win-win for both the scientists and the “sphere.” These explorations will create datasets, raw data, handy hacks, and just use the powerful tools of the machine for everything that comes next. For important moments that will go down in history.


Artist’s concept of the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

“In order to realize the full scientific potential of the James Webb Space Telescope, it is critical that the scientific community quickly learn to use its tools and capabilities,” the page says about early release discretionary science programs that were put together to choose which researchers will test JWST during the first 5 months of its scientific activity (after a 6-month commissioning period).

Looking through the list increased my anticipation – and I bet it will raise yours too.

Here is a snippet.

Turning the page for JWST

About 3.5 billion light-years from Earth is a huge cluster of galaxies called Abell 2744, also known as the Pandora Cluster.

It can be said that this perfect starting candidate for JWST, as it is part of an ancient distant universe. NASA’s next-generation telescope contains a large amount of infrared imaging equipment that can access light from deep space – light that neither human eyes nor standard optical telescopes can see. This is a research match made in heaven.

Thus, the research team plans to observe what happens in this brilliant cluster of galaxies, hidden from human vision, but vital to astrophysical progress.


Abell 2744, obtained by combining X-rays from Chandra (diffuse blue emission) with optical light data from Hubble (red, green and blue).


They plan to use two of JWST Toolscalled a near-infrared spectrograph, a near-infrared imager, and a slitless spectrograph, both of which can simply decipher the chemistry of distant worlds stuck in the infrared that we can’t penetrate.

But JWST is not just farsighted. It can also turn on reading glasses to scan objects nearby.

That’s why the other team is more interested in figuring out how to navigate phenomena in our own space environment. Their drawings say they will characterize Jupiter’s cloud layers, winds, composition, temperature structure, and even auroral activity – that is, the Jupiterian version of our northern lights.

This research bit is ready to use almost all JWST’s groundbreaking infrared equipment: Nirspec, Niriss, as well as a near-infrared camera – the JWST alpha scanner – and a mid-infrared (MIRI) camera, which, as you might guess, specializes in detecting light in the mid-infrared range. “In this way, our program will demonstrate the capabilities of the JWST instruments on one of the largest and brightest sources in the solar system and on very faint targets near it,” they write in their summary.

According to the status report, part of the work on Jupiter has already been completed, and observation windows continue until August. In addition, Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, which is the largest in the solar system, and the extremely active Io should also be explored with MIRI. The latter is of particular interest because researchers hope to resolve Io’s volcanoes and compare Webb’s views with classical views.


Jupiter (center) and its moon Europa (left) are seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s 2.12-micron NIRCam filter.

NASA, ESA, CSA and B. Holler and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Next come the scientists focused on the dust. But not dust. Star dust.

We know that dust is the main ingredient in the formation of the stars and planets that adorn our universe, but we still don’t know the timeline they followed to get us to where we are today, especially because many of these critical important to us – The dust of existence is dispersed in the early universe. And the early universe was illuminated exclusively by infrared light.

Yeah. Exactly what JWST can and will delve into.

Understanding the history of stardust means building an understanding of the building blocks of our cosmic universe, just as the study of atoms reveals knowledge about chunks of matter. And as Carl Sagan once said, “The cosmos is within us. We are made of stellar matter. We are the way the universe can know itself.”

Perhaps JWST can help the Universe in its quest for introspection.

Just wait for JWST to see it

In general, over the past many months, as a scientific observer, I have witnessed the repetition of one amazing feeling. “Just wait until the James Webb Space Telescope sees it.”

Not in those words, but in that tone.

In April, for example, the Hubble Space Telescope hit a record milestone when it delivered an image of the most distant star we’ve ever seen in the distant universe. BUT a starry beauty named Earendelwhich accurately translates to “morning star” in Old English.

“The study of Earendel will be a window into an era in the universe that we are not familiar with but that has led to everything we really know,” Brian Welch, one of the pioneering astronomers at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement.


Earendel (indicated by the arrow) is located along a ripple in spacetime, which gives it extreme magnification, allowing it to emerge into view from its host galaxy, which appears as a red spot in the sky.


But remember how JWST is armed to explore the ancient unseen universe? Exactly. The authors of the study are ready to look at Earendel with the JWST lens, hoping to confirm if it really is just one stellar body and quantify what kind of rising star it is.

JWST can also solve an enigmatic riddle posed by Neptune, the lawn-blue ornament of our solar system: getting colder for no apparent reason. But “the exceptional sensitivity of the space telescope’s mid-infrared instrument, MIRI, will provide unprecedented new maps of the chemical composition and temperature in Neptune’s atmosphere,” said Lee Fletcher, co-author of the mystery study and planetary scientist at Neptune University. Lester, the message says.

There’s also the intrigue of deciphering the cruel majesty of our cosmic realm: supermassive black holes – and even the strange, multi-billion dollar growing ancestor of the black hole.

“Webb will have the opportunity to decisively determine how widespread these rapidly growing black holes are,” Seiji Fujimoto, one of the pioneering astronomers at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, said in a statement.

Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope Comparison: See the Difference

View all photos

And finally, I would say that the most mind-boggling aspect of JWST – at least to me – is that it is by far the best way to find evidence for extraterrestrial life. Aliens.

Some scientists are even prematurely wary false positives organic matter that the JWST software can detect so as not to alarm the public (me) when that day comes. But if that day comes, our jaws will surely drop to the ground, and our heartbeats will speed up, definitely considering July 12 as a light memory.

And even if that day doesn’t come, it won’t be long before NASA’s new muse of space exploration sends back an image that’s as field-changing as Hubble’s first deep field in 1995, which we still can’t understand.

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