OCCC Physics Prof. Tad Thurston

Space is a vast, unknown expanse of stars, planets, and blackholes. Astronomers can only guess as to what the secrets of the universe hold, but now, thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, they can start to get answers. 

The James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, has a lot to offer the scientific community.”

“The problem is we don’t have a good infrared telescope in space,” said OCCC Physics Prof. Tad Thurston told the Pioneer. 

This also begs the question: Why does the astronomy community need an infrared telescope and what can it offer them? 

“We can see the solar systems of these planets forming inside these gas clouds with infrared telescopes,” Thurston said. 

By being able to see the formation of solar systems with infrared technology, the JWST can see some of the earliest planets made. 

A billion years after the Big Bang the first stars, galaxies, and eventually planets start to form.

“The universe has been expanding, and as it turns out that stretches the light,” Thurston said. “And when you stretch the light you get longer wavelengths so it gets more and more red to the point where we can’t see it. Like with the Hubble. It gets stretched to the invisible part of the spectrum. So that is what the Webb is designed for, to see into the part of the spectrum where it can see those early stars and galaxies.” 

Another part of the Webb’s mission is to look for exoplanets. 

Thurston thinks the JWST will “definitely” find exoplanets. 

“We have discovered already, even without it up to this point, I think the count is 4 or 5,000 planets we’ve discovered around other stars,” he said. “I think it is just going to add to that. It might discover a couple thousand more all by itself.” 

Thousands of planets have already been discovered by astronomers, and this is without the help of the JWST. Some even look like they might hold the promise of being habitable, but most, unfortunately, don’t. 

The Webb will increase the number of known planets and will hopefully discover another habitable planet. 

The universe is infinite, so there has to be something else out there. Right? 

The making of the Webb didn’t just happen in a few years. The telescope took time and money to build and to build correctly. 

“Shortly after the Hubble went up” the JWST started to be made, reports Thurston. 

The Webb was also built to last, because once it was in space, there it would remain. No changes or repairs could be made once the JWST was launched. 

“The mission is scheduled for five years, they planned for ten years, and I think it has an outside chance of twenty years,” Thurston said. 

The Webb has a lot to offer not only to astronomy, but to the world as well. With the infrared telescope, astronomers can see solar systems forming and even discover the oldest stars and galaxies. 

The JWST can also find exoplanets in the hopes of finding life outside our solar system.

Researchers hope the Webb telescope can look into deep space to reveal the elemental history of the universe.

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