Upcoming James Webb Space Telescope Targets Are Potentially Mind-Blowing

Upcoming James Webb Space Telescope Targets Are Potentially Mind-Blowing
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With the release of The first images from the James Webb Space Telescope on July 12. (Y a sneaky revelation from US President Joe Biden on July 11), NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency proved that the two-decade-long, $10 billion dream viewer 1 million miles from Earth really works. And works impeccably just take a look at the enhanced images that Webb delivered over its predecessor, Hubble. They are visceral masterpieces that force us to think about the magnificence of the universe and reflect on the insignificant corner of our solar system.

But what we saw in early July was just the preface to the JWST book. It will be the chapters that follow that will write his legacy.

While the telescope’s first full-color results were excellent, they are just a taste of the instrument’s capabilities. In truth, we may not even have words to describe what is to come, in the way that the Hubble Space Telescope’s first light image failed to foreshadow the amazing deep fields that would one day plaster the walls of the astronomy department or the nebulae that would inspire poetry.


Five galaxies engaged in a dance make up Stephan’s Quintet. JWST images released on July 12, 2022.


But we might be able to infer some scenes from the future of JWST because, despite public recognition of this telescope, scientists have been queuing for years to use it.

Researchers are now ready to point to phenomena that will blow your mind: massive black holes, shattered galaxy mergers, luminescent binary stars emitting smoke signals, and even wonders closer to home like Ganymede, an icy moon of Jupiter.

More specifically, a few lucky early scientists have proposals divided into six categories, each meticulously selected by the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee and the Space Telescope Science Institute in November 2017, not to mention the more than 200 separate international projects . time allotted on the telescope and those who are ready to join the waiting list.

But the initial cadre of JWST space explorers is bound to be beneficial to both the scientist and the scope. These studies will create data sets, baselines, handy life hacks, and generally prepare the powerful machine tools for everything that comes next. For the great moments that will go down in history.


An artist’s conception 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 imperative that the scientific community quickly learn to use its instruments and capabilities,” reads a page about Director’s Early Exit Discretionary Science Programswhich was drawn up to select which researchers will test JWST during its first 5 months of science operations (after the 6-month telescope start-up period).

Perusing the list has raised my anticipation, and I bet it will raise yours too.

Here is a snippet.

Turning the page for JWST

About 3.5 billion light-years from Earth is a huge cluster of galaxies called Abell 2744, also known as the Pandora Cluster.

You could say this is the Perfect initial candidate for JWST, as it is part of the ancient and distant universe. NASA’s next-generation telescope contains a host of infrared imaging equipment that can access light emanating from the distant cosmos — light that neither human eyes nor standard optical telescopes can see. It is a combination of scientific exploration done in the sky.

Thus, a team of researchers plans to watch what is happening in this bright cluster of galaxies, hidden from human sight but vital to astrophysical advancement.

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


They plan to use two of JWST Instrumentscalled near-infrared spectrograph and near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph, which can simply decode the chemical composition of distant worlds trapped in the infrared zone that we can’t get past.

But JWST is not simply farsighted. You can also turn on your reading glasses to scan nearby things.

That’s why another team is more interested in figuring out how to navigate phenomena in our own cosmic neighborhood. Their blueprints say they will characterize the cloud layers, winds, composition, temperature structure, and even activity of Jupiter’s auroras, also known as the Jovian version of our Northern Lights.

This research bit is ready to use almost everybody of JWST’s innovative infrared equipment: Nirspec, Niriss, as well as the JWST Near-Infrared Camera, Alpha Imager, and Mid-Infrared Camera (MIRI), which, as you might guess, specializes in detecting mid infrared light. “Our program will demonstrate the capabilities of JWST’s instruments on one of the largest and brightest sources in the solar system and on very faint targets next to it.” write in your abstract.

Some of the work on Jupiter has already been done according to the project status report and observing windows continue through August. In addition, Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, which is the largest in the solar system, and the extremely active Io will also be examined with MIRI. The latter is particularly interesting, since the researchers I hope to solve the volcanoes of Io and compare Webb’s views with the classical views.


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

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

The next step is dust-focused scientists. But not just any powder. star dust

We know that dust is the main ingredient in the formation of stars and planets that decorate our universe, but we are still confused about the timeline that followed to get us to where we are today, especially since much of it, crucial for our -the dust of existence is scattered throughout the early universe. And the early universe is illuminated only by infrared light.

AHA. Precisely what JWST can (and will) delve into.

Breaking down the history of stardust means building an understanding of the building blocks of our cosmic universe — similar to how the study of atoms opens up knowledge about bits of matter. And as Carl Sagan once said: “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way the universe knows itself.”

Perhaps JWST can help the universe in its quest for insight.

Just wait until JWST sees this

Over the last few months in general, as a science writer, I have witnessed the repetition of an amazing feeling. “Just wait until the James Webb Space Telescope sees this.”

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

In April, for example, the Hubble Space Telescope reached a record milestone when it delivered an image of the farthest star we have ever seen from the distant universe. A star beauty named Earendelwhich aptly translates to “morning star” in Old English.

“Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe which we are not familiar with, but which led to everything we do know,” Brian Welch, one of the discovering astronomers at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement.


Earendel (indicated by an arrow) is positioned along a ripple in space-time that gives him extreme magnification, allowing him to emerge into view from his host galaxy, appearing as a red smudge in the sky.


But remember how JWST is armed to study the ancient and unseen universe? Exactly. The study authors are prepared to look at Earendel through JWST’s lens, hopefully confirming whether it really is just a stellar body and quantifying what kind of sunrise star it is.

JWST could also solve a mysterious puzzle posed by Neptune, our solar system’s gaseous blue topper: it’s getting colder for no apparent reason. But “the exquisite sensitivity of the space telescope’s mid-infrared instrument, MIRI, will provide unprecedented new maps of the chemistry and temperatures in Neptune’s atmosphere,” said Leigh Fletcher, co-author of a study on the mystery and planetary scientist at the University. leicester, said in a statement.

There is also the intrigue of deciphering the majestic majesties of our cosmic realm: supermassive black holes, and even a strange billion-year-old ancestor of black holes.

“Webb will have the power to decisively determine how common these fast-growing black holes really are,” Seiji Fujimoto, one of the discovering astronomers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.

Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope Image Comparison: See the Difference

See all photos

And finally, I would say that the most amazing aspect of JWST, at least to me, is that it is currently the best chance we have to find evidence of extraterrestrial life. aliens

Some scientists are even prematurely warning against false positives of organic matter that the JWST software could pick up, so as not to alarm the general public (me) when that day comes. But if that day does come, our jaws will no doubt drop to the ground and our heart rate will quicken, unequivocally regarding July 12 as a faint memory.

And even if that day doesn’t come, it won’t be long before NASA’s new muse of space exploration sends back an image as stunning as Hubble’s first. deep field in 1995 – one that we cannot yet comprehend.

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