James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope
Source: Nasa.gov

The James Webb Space Telescope has only been online for a few months and is already making headlines for its amazing views of the cosmos. Recently astronomers have turned their attention to our own backyard and have taken some astonishing images of Jupiter and Neptune.

Jupiter and Neptune

The incredible detail of the Jupiter image is breathtaking. You can clearly see the auroras at the poles. The outer atmosphere is also very visible. How cool would it be to take a vacation on an orbiting hotel around this planet? I’ll never see the day but within the next 100 years that may be a reality. For now the ISS is as close as we can get to heaven. However just sitting down and watching the clouds race around the planet would bring a grown man to tears.

Jupiter via James Webb
Source: Nasa.gov – Jupiter

Everyone knows about Saturns’ famous rings. But did you know that Neptune also has rings? The image below is of Neptune and 7 of its 14 moons. That bright star at the top is actually Triton, Neptune’s largest moon. Notice how this pic is not as clear as the one of Jupiter? That’s because at its closest approach, Jupiter comes within 367 million miles from Earth. Neptune, however, only gets 2.7 billion miles on its closest approach. That’s over 7 times farther away than Jupiter! Our own solar system is incredibly large without doubt. This image just puts that into prospective.

JWST will likely find a huge number of exoplanets as well. There have currently been over 5,000 exoplanets discovered using other telescopes such as Hubble. That number will likely drastically change in the coming years.

Neptune and moons
Source: Nasa.gov – Neptune

Carina Nebula

The Carina Nebula photo is by far my favorite. JWST can see much further into the infrared spectrum allowing it to peer through clouds of dust and gas. The difference is astonishing. This is a side by side comparison of Hubble on the left and JWST on the right of the same patch of sky.

side by side comparison of Hubble and JWST of the Carina Nebula

Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation October 2022
Pillars of Creation

Deep Field View

One of the first images we got to see was of a deep field image the telescope took. The stars with spikes or lines coming off of them are stars in our own milky way galaxy, everything else you see in this photo is another entire galaxy. This image has caused a stir because, it has taken over 13 billion years for the light that left some of these galaxies to reach earth. That means we are seeing galaxies as they were at the beginning of the universe. Astronomers were not expecting there to be so many large galaxies well put together in that time frame.

This has led to speculation that either the universe is much older than we thought or that the Big Bang didn’t happen the way we thought it did. I think that people love a good conspiracy theory and pseudoscientists are no different. The Big Bang Theory is still on firm ground and all this image proves is that we have a lot to learn about our universe.

I try to fathom how large some of the structures in this image have to be to cause the lensing of entire galaxies behind them. However large they are, conspiracy theorists would surely try to make the leap across them to make their own delusions make sense.

JWST Deep Field Image
JWST Deep Field Image

James Webb Space Telescope will advance our knowledge

What this image does show is that galaxies were larger and more plentiful than predicted. The Big Bang model will have to be adjusted because of it, but that doesn’t disprove it at all. It just shows we have a lot to learn still. With JWST and a new generation of telescopes in the pipeline, our understanding of the universe will likely be drastically different in the coming decades.

Development

JWST has been in development since 1996. It was originally slated to launch in 2007. It was redesigned in 2005, it wasn’t finished until 2016. With another 6 years of testing, we finally got to launch day on Christmas Day 2021. The telescope is designed primarily for viewing the cosmos in infrared. The longer light travels it begins to move into the infrared spectrum. If you’ve ever used night vision goggles, you’ll understand why the telescope needs to be very cold. The heat from the sun and even the Earth could skew the results. That’s why the telescope was put into orbit at the Earths L2 LaGrange point. It is also equipped with a massive heat shield, the size of a tennis court. This allows the JWST to operate at near absolute zero temperatures.

You can actually see current temperatures of Webb on the “Where is Webb website“. Get more space facts here.

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