PSW 2267 Astronomy with the James Webb Space Telescope

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March 19, 2010
John C. Mather
Senior Project Scientist, James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope, named after NASA’s Administrator under President Kennedy, extended the scientific discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope using a gigantic 21-foot deployable mirror. Built by an international partnership led by NASA with major contributions from Europe and Canada, to be launched in 2014 on the European Ariane 5 rocket, and traveling a million miles from Earth to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, the JWST will observe wavelengths from 0.6 to 28 microns. It will see farther back in time, closer to the Big Bang, to learn about the first stars and galaxies, and it will examine cold dust clouds where stars and planets are being born today. With luck, it will tell us about the formation of life-supporting planets like Earth. this lecture outlined the history of the project, the main engineering breakthroughs it required, and the strategy for scientific investigation. Ultimately, the JWST will help answer the questions: How did we get here? Are we alone?

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