James Webb Space Telescope’s Next Targets Blow Potential Minds

James Webb Space Telescope's Next Targets Blow Potential Minds
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With release First images from the James Webb Space Telescope on July 12 (and Secret statement by US President Joe Biden On July 11), NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency proved that a $10 billion, 20-year dream 1 million miles from Earth actually works. And it works perfect, ideal. just take it See Webb’s improved visuals over its predecessor, Hubble. They are visceral masterpieces that compel us to contemplate the majesty of the universe and contemplate an insignificant corner within our solar system.

But what we saw in early July was only the foreword of the JWST book. It will be the next chapters that will write his legacy.

While the telescope’s first full-color results are excellent, they only give a taste of the instrument’s capabilities. In truth, just as the Hubble Space Telescope’s first light image is no harbinger of the amazing deep fields that will one day grace the walls of an astronomy department or the nebulae that will inspire poetry, we may not even have the words to describe what’s to come.


Five galaxies locked in dance make up Stefan’s quintet. Images posted by JWST on July 12, 2022.


But we can draw conclusions Some scenes from the future of JWST, because even though this telescope is open to the public, scientists have been waiting in line for years to use it.

Now researchers are ready to point it to phenomena that will blow your mind: supermassive black holes, collapsing galaxy mergers, luminescent binary stars emitting smoke signals, and even closer-to-home wonders like Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede.

More precisely, the first few lucky scientists have proposals divided into six categories, each of which was carefully selected in November 2017 by the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee and the Space Telescope Science Institute – not to mention more than 200 separate international projects. award-winning team at the telescope and those willing to join the waiting list.

But the initial crew of JWST space explorers is set to be a win for both scientists and scope. These studies will create databases, benchmarks, useful life hacks, and simply prepare the powerful machine’s tools for whatever comes next. For great moments that will go down in history.


Artist’s concept of the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

“To realize the full scientific potential of the James Webb Space Telescope, it is essential that the scientific community quickly learns to use its instruments and capabilities,” one page reads. Principal’s Discretionary-Early Release Science Programsbrought together to select which investigators will test JWST for the first 5 months of its scientific operations (after the 6-month telescope commissioning period).

Glancing through the list raised my expectations – and I’m sure it will raise yours too.

Here is a snippet.

Turn page for JWST

About 3.5 billion light-years away from Earth is a giant galaxy cluster called Abell 2744.

One might say that this perfect an early candidate for JWST because it is part of the ancient, distant universe. Includes NASA’s next-generation telescope a lot of infrared imaging equipment that can access light emitted from deep space — light that neither the human eye nor standard optical telescopes can see. This is a science exploration game made in heaven.

So the team of investigators plans to observe What is happening in this bright galaxy cluster is hidden from human vision, but vital to astrophysical development.


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


They plan to use both JWST toolsCalled the Near-Infrared Spectrograph and the Near-Infrared Imager and the Slitless Spectrograph, both of them can just decipher the chemical composition of distant worlds stuck in the infrared zone we can’t pass through.

But JWST is more than just a visionary. He can also turn on his reading glasses to scan nearby objects.

So another team is more interested in figuring out how to control events in our own cosmic neighborhood. Their plans say they will characterize Jupiter’s cloud layers, winds, composition, temperature structure and even auroral activity, the Jovian version of our northern lights.

This research bit is almost ready to use all JWST’s core infrared equipment: Nirspec, Niriss, as well as the Near Infrared Camera — JWST’s alpha imager — and, you guessed it, the Mid-Infrared Camera (MIRI), which specializes in detecting mid-infrared light. “Our program will demonstrate the capabilities of the JWST instruments on one of the largest and brightest sources in the solar system and on nearby very faint targets.” they write in their abstracts.

According to the project’s status report, part of the work on Jupiter has already been completed and the observation windows continue in August. In addition, Jupiter’s largest moon in the Solar System, Ganymede, and the extremely active Io are also planned to be investigated by MIRI. The latter is especially interesting as researchers I hope to resolve Ion’s volcanoes and compare Webb’s views with classical views.


Jupiter, center, and its moon Europa, left, seen through the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument 2.12 micron filter.

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

Next up are scientists who focus on dust. But not just any powder. Stardust

We know that dust is a key ingredient in the formation of the stars and planets that decorate our universe, but we’re still hazy on the timeline they followed to get us to where we are today—especially since the vast amount of dust that mattered to us was scattered throughout the early universe. And the first universe is lit only by infrared light.

aha. Exactly what JWST can and will learn.

Breaking down the story of stardust means building an understanding of it the building blocks of our cosmic universe — like how the study of atoms opens up knowledge of the particles of matter. And as Carl Sagan once said, “The cosmos is within us. We are made of stars. We are on a path for the universe to know itself.”

Perhaps JWST can help the universe in its introspective quest.

Wait until JWST sees it

Overall, over the past few months, I’ve experienced a surprising reoccurrence of feelings as a science writer. “Wait until the James Webb Space Telescope sees it.”

Not with those words, exactly, but definitely with that tone.

For example, in April, the Hubble Space Telescope reached a record-breaking milestone by bringing us a picture of the most distant star we’ve ever seen from the distant universe. THE A star beauty named Earendelthis is appropriately translated as “morning star” in Old English.

“Reading Earendel will be a window into the universe We didn’t know it, but it caused everything we know,” said Brian Welch, one of the research astronomers at Johns Hopkins University.


Earendel (arrowed) is positioned along a ripple in space, giving it extreme magnification and allowing it to be seen from its host galaxy, which appears as a red spot in the sky.


But remember how JWST was armed to study the ancient, invisible universe? Exactly. The authors of the study will look at Earendele through JWST’s lenses, which will hopefully confirm whether it is indeed just a single stellar object and determine what type of dawn star it is.

JWST may also solve the mystery posed by Neptune, the gaseous blue ornament of our solar system: cooling for no apparent reason. But “the fine sensitivity of MIRI, the space telescope’s mid-infrared instrument, will provide unprecedented new maps of the chemistry and temperature of Neptune’s atmosphere,” said study co-author Leigh Fletcher Leicester, a planetary scientist at the university. said in the statement.

There’s also the intrigue of deciphering the violent splendors of our cosmic universe: supermassive black holes — and even a strange, multi-billion-year-old progenitor of a growing black hole.

“Webb will have the power to definitively determine how common these rapidly growing black holes really are,” said Seiji Fujimoto, one of the research astronomers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope Images Compared: See the Difference

See all pictures

And finally, I’d say the most incredible thing about JWST—at least in my opinion—is that it’s the best opportunity we have right now to find evidence of extraterrestrial life. aliens.

Some scientists are even prematurely protected false positives organics that JWST’s software can pick up so as not to disturb the general public (me) when that day comes. But if that day comes, our jaws will undoubtedly drop and our heartbeats will unequivocally regard July 12 as a bland memory.

And even if that day doesn’t come, it won’t be long before NASA’s new inspiration for space exploration sends back an image as field-changing as Hubble’s first image. Deep bed in 1995 — that we don’t yet understand.

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