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Stargazing: Lehi Museum partners with NASA to share Webb images

NASA reveled four new images Tuesday taken by the James Webb Telescope. This image shows the Carina nebula. The Hutchings Museum Institute in Lehi, selected by NASA to be an official Webb events host, held an event on Saturday to celebrate the first images from the telescope,
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NASA released four new images taken on Tuesday by the James Webb Telescope. This image shows the Carina Nebula. The Hutchings Lehi Museum Institute, selected by NASA as the official host of Webb events, held an event on Saturday to celebrate the first images from the telescope (NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI).

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LEHI — Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope have spread around the world this week, showing new detailed photographs of galaxies and stars that show snapshots from billions of years in the past.

The Hutchings Museum Institute in Lehi, NASA’s chosen host of Webb events, celebrated the first images released by the James Webb Space Telescope on Saturday and shared what can be learned from the telescope’s images.

Joshua Lothringer spoke about the meaning of the photographs and answered questions; he is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Utah Valley and will be the principal investigator for two of his proposed Webb Space Telescope programs.

Lothringer said the Webb Telescope project began about 20 years ago and it was launched on Christmas morning 2021. It took a month to deploy the mirrors and set up the camera—Lothringer said the telescope was the size of a tennis court and had to roll up to be sent into space. He said that there were many different things that could have caused the project to fail – 344 points of failure – but everything went perfectly.

The telescope is pointed from the ground into space and includes a significant solar shield that keeps the side pointed at about minus 390 degrees while the side facing the sun is at about 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the presentation, Lothringer compared several Hubble and Webb images of the same region and explained that the Webb telescope reads infrared wavelengths – one of the reasons it has to be so cold is because it doesn’t read own. heat. The new telescope also has a gold mirror, because gold reflects long wavelength red light well.

Since the telescope does not look at visible light, the photographs shared by NASA have colors that are interpreted based on the colors seen in different images in infrared light.

The infrared photographs taken by Webb contain a lot of additional information, including the composition of galaxies and stars and their distance from the telescope. The telescope showed galaxies that are so far away that we’re looking at what happened more than 13.1 billion years ago, and these are some of the first galaxies to follow the Big Bang, Lothringer said.

“Every moment Webb tells you something… and of course, that’s not all,” he said.

Joshua Lothringer, assistant professor at UVU, talks about how the James Webb Space Telescope was launched and deployed into space at an event at the Hutchings Museum Institute on Saturday.
Joshua Lothringer, assistant professor at UVU, talks about how the James Webb Space Telescope was launched and deployed into space at an event at the Hutchings Museum Institute on Saturday. (Photo: Emily Ashcraft, KSL)

The James Webb Space Telescope has enough fuel to keep it orbiting the Sun outside of Earth’s orbit for about twenty years, and every year scientists can make proposals for the telescope to study something for them.

Lothringer accepted two proposals, one to study brown dwarfs and the other to study exoplanets. He explained that the information from the telescope is public, but when a particular person conducts a study, this information is kept confidential for up to a year so that he can conduct the study before it becomes public.

Anyone can go online to see a schedule of where the telescope will look over the next week. Lothringer said he is currently watching a supernova.

Following the presentation, the museum hosted a live discussion on YouTube with NASA scientists reviewing the photographs.

Daniela Larsen, executive director of the Hutchings Museum Institute, said the museum is investing in sharing information about ongoing research. She said there is still much to be discovered, both on earth and in space, and the fact that Webb is looking directly at events that have happened in the past is interesting for the museum.

“This is an important moment in the exploration of the universe,” Larsen said. “We are excited to celebrate this great achievement with the community and our friends at NASA as the first detailed images from this marvelous telescope become known to the world.”

She said that being involved in space exploration can inspire children and it is good for them to have activities where they can be interested and curious. The museum has a NASA summer series with other space-related discussions in hopes of getting kids involved in bringing the spirit of exploration to Utah.

“These images show the universe as it was millions of years ago and literally allow us to see the past of our solar system, our galaxy and distant galaxies from the earliest times of the cosmos. help propel our planet into the future,” Larsen said.

The building that houses the museum was built in 1919 by World War I veterans, but there are plans to add 70,000 square feet to the building by 2026 while maintaining the historic façade; Larsen said the city donated some of the land behind the building to accommodate growth. She said they plan to continue working with NASA and National Geographic to bring new exciting exhibits.

She said the museum is unique because it is not a city, state, or church museum and focuses on the local history of the many different cultures that have contributed to the state’s history.


This is the moment of a generation in the exploration of the universe.

— Daniela Larsen, Executive Director of the Hutchings Museum Institute.


The Hutchings Museum Institute’s partnership with NASA gives teachers access to continuous learning and classroom resources, as well as the ability for teachers to bring students to the museum. This is part of the joint NASA STEM Engagement and Educator Professional Development program.

“The STEM Engagement Program is a great way for teachers to use the exciting information, projects, and science data collected with the Webb Telescope and used by NASA and other scientists around the world in their classrooms,” Larsen said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal matters, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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