In April of 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, providing new views of the Universe that have riveted us for a third of a century. But Hubble’s eyes, while vastly larger and unobscured by the atmosphere, are pretty much like our own — limited to just over a single octave of cosmic radiation. Last Christmas morning, we began opening a new window on the Universe with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. By far the most complex device ever placed in space, Webb will allow us to see how the first stars and galaxies emerged from the Dark Ages of the early Universe, and to assay the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system in a search for extraterrestrial life.
Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Story of the Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe, by Dennis Overbye
Exoplanets: Hidden Worlds and the Quest for Extraterrestrial Life, by Donald Goldsmith
The mission website: https://www.jwst.nasa.gov
- What is the appropriate balance between ambition and risk in designing a multi-billion-dollar space mission? What about if, unlike the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it involved astronauts?
- What do you think the likelihood is that there is life beyond Earth in the Universe? Do you expect JWST to find evidence for life?
- How did black holes with a mass of a billion Suns emerge so early in the Universe? Were their seeds formed in the Big Bang, or did they just grow quickly during the Dark Ages?
- How soon after the Big Bang will JWST see the most distant object it detects?