NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Will Help Reveal the History of the Universe

Set for launch in 2021 NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which costs $8.8 billion to build, will examine the cosmos to reveal the history of the universe all the way from the Big Bang to alien planet formation and more. The focus of the mission has four main components: first light in the universe, assembly of galaxies in the early universe, the birth of stars and protoplanetary systems, and planets (including the origins of life.)

These questions are important to answer especially for Asgardia as they work toward their goal of setting up habitable platforms in low-Earth orbit, creating a demilitarized and free scientific base of knowledge in space, and ensuring the peaceful use of space for everyone.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, after which it will take 30 days to fly a million miles to its permanent home: a Lagrange point, or a gravitationally stable location in space. It will orbit around L2, a region in space near Earth that sits opposite from the sun. This has been a prime location for many other space telescopes, such as the Herschel Space Telescope and the Planck Space Observatory.

This powerful spacecraft will also capture stunning photos of celestial objects just like its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope. Fortunately for astronomers, the Hubble Space Telescope is still in good health, and it’s likely that the two telescopes will work together for JWST’s first few years. What’s more, JWST will study exoplanets that the Kepler Space Telescope discovered, or follow up on real-time observations from ground space telescopes.

Here is a breakdown of the four main components of the James Webb Space Telescope:

First Light and Reionization

This part focuses on the early stages of the universe after the Big Bang started to form the universe as we know it currently. In the first stages after the Big Bang, the universe was a sea of particles (like electrons, protons and neutrons), and you couldn’t see the light until the universe cooled enough for these particles to begin mixing. JWST will also investigate what happened after the first stars formed; which is an era known as “the epoch of reionization” since it referred to when neutral hydrogen was reionized (made to have an electric charge again) by radiation from these first stars.

Assembly of Galaxies

By studying galaxies, it is a helpful way to see how matter is organized on massive scales, which then gives us clues as to how the universe evolved. The spiral and elliptical galaxies we see presently actually evolved from different shapes over billions of years, and one of JWST’s objectives is to look back at the earliest galaxies to learn more about that evolution. Moreover, experts want to determine how we got the variety of galaxies that are visible today and the current ways that galaxies form and assemble.

Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems

The Eagle Nebula’s are some of the most famous birthplaces for stars. Stars form in clouds of gas, and as the stars grow, the radiation pressure they exert blows away the cocooning gas (which could be used again for other stars, if it’s not too widely spread out.) But, it’s hard to see inside the gas so JWST’s infrared eyes will be able to look at sources of heat, such as stars that are being born in these cocoons.

Planets and the Start of Life

In the past ten years, we have discovered a large number of exoplanets, including by using NASA’s planet-seeking Kepler Space Telescope. JWST’s powerful sensors will be able to study these planets in more depth, and in some cases even image their atmospheres. Learning more about the atmospheres and the formation conditions for planets could assist scientists in better predicting if certain planets are habitable or not.

To accomplish these goals, the JWST will come ready with four scientific instruments.

The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), which was given by the University of Arizona and will be used to detect light from stars in nearby galaxies and stars within the Milky Way.

The Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), which will observe 100 objects all at once, looking for the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. The European Space Agency gave NIRSpec with help from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which will capture stunning photos of space and far off celestial objects, following in Hubble’s tradition of astrophotography. The spectrograph that is a part of the instrument will enable scientists to collect more physical details about distant objects in the universe. MIRI will also identify distant galaxies, faint comets, forming stars and objects in the Kuiper Belt. MIRI was constructed by the European Consortium with the European Space Agency and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fine Guidance Sensor/Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS): This Canadian Space Agency-built instrument is more like two instruments combined. The FGS component is responsible for keeping the JWST pointed in precisely the right direction during its science investigations. NIRISS will probe the cosmos to detect signatures of the first light in the universe and help to characterize alien planets.

If you’re interested in answering the questions that surround the mystery of our universe then join Asgardia today and help us accomplish our goals.

When preparing news, materials from the following publications were used:

https://www.space.com/21925-james-webb-space-telescope-jwst.html

https://www.space.com/17142-james-webb-space-telescope-photos.html

 

Imprint

Image Credit: Vadim Sadovski / Shutterstock

JOIN ASGARDIA NOW

Become a Citizen