COLORADO SPRINGS — Lifting off from a tropical rainforest in 2021 to the edge of time itself, the James Webb Space Telescope began its voyage to its workplace more than a million miles away from earth.
After 30 years of construction and $10 billion, Webb is considered one of the most significant scientific achievements of the twenty-first century.
After six months in space, traveling one-million miles form earth, the first images from the Webb telescope are out of this world. “If you were to go outside and take a grain of sand and hold it to you from arms length, this entire image would fit behind that grain of sand,” said Ambre Trujillo, a NASA ambassador at Space Foundation Discovery Center. “Which is insane so you start to think okay well what about the rest of the sky, does it look like this too? And that’s what we are thinking.”
Scientists believe that Webb will see thousands of galaxies that have billions to trillions of stars in them, “Which most likely have their own planets orbiting them,” Trujillo said.
Separate from the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, Webb is focusing on the infrared spectrum, “It can peer through the dust in these nebulas and can see through them to look at the stars,” Trujillo explained.
Scientists say each piece of light holds its own secrets and some of the images may appear warped.
When there is a very strong gravitational presence, it actually bends light, “What you are seeing is because of the galactic cluster, it’s actually bending the light of these galaxies and making them appear kind of smeared out and behind them its magnifying the galaxies behind it,” Trujillo said.
Besides the breathtaking images, one of the more impressive elements of Webb is the international and industry collaboration that went behind it, “It was thousands of people over 14 countries,” Trujillo said.
They all put their heads together to make sure Webb went up to space successfully, but Tuesday’s (7/12) pictures are just the beginning, “One of humanities biggest questions is our origin story, where did we come from and who we are,” Trujillo said.
The James Webb Space Telescope is exploring exactly that. Now the Webb is not a life detection mission, it’s looking at exo-planets that could be habitable, “It’s not only answering questions that we currently have, but it’s starting to foster questions that we didn’t even know we had,” Trujillo says.
Coming up on Saturday, July 16, Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs is celebrating the first images from Webb with hands-on activities and a virtual expert panel. Events kick off Saturday at 10 a.m.