The James Webb Space TelescopeThe James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope. It covers longer wavelengths of light, with greatly improved sensitivity, allowing it to see inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today as well as looking further back in time to observe the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.”>James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) is designed to answer fundamental questions about the Universe.
With 100 times more sensitivity than the NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It’s vision is “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.””>NASA/ESA Hubble Space TelescopeThe Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as Hubble or HST) is one of NASA’s Great Observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4-meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.”>Hubble Space Telescope, and a mirror which is nearly double the size of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, it can detect infrared light generated by galaxies as they formed more than 13.5 billion years ago, in the aftermath of the Big BangThe Big Bang is the leading cosmological model explaining how the universe as we know it began roughly 13.8 billion years ago.”>Big Bang.
For the first time in human history we have the opportunity to directly observe the first stars and galaxies forming in the early Universe. When we observe something that is a million light-years away, what we are seeing is actually how it looked a million years ago: we are looking back in time.
The light of galaxies that are billions of light-years away travels to us through the expanding Universe, which causes its wavelength to stretch into the infrared. Webb’s infrared vision makes it a powerful time machine that will peer back over 13.5 billion years, to a time shortly after the Big Bang.
Some of Hubble’s most remarkable images were its ‘deep fields’, which used long exposures – over days – to capture thousands of galaxies in single images. They revealed the most distant galaxies ever observed till then, and showed us young galaxies when they were only a few hundred million years old and were small, compact, and irregular.
Webb’s infrared sensitivity will not only look back farther in time but will also reveal dramatically more information about stars and galaxies in the early Universe. Webb’s data will also answer the compelling questions of how black holes formed and grew early on, and what influence they had on the formation and evolution of the early Universe.
Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).