NASA test deploys the primary mirror on the new space telescope for the last time on Earth (Photo: NASA/Chris Gunn)
The launch of the long-awaited Hubble Space Telescope successor is planned for late 2021. The orbiting infrared observatory will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are developing today.
Webb will be able to observe the first objects that formed after the Big Bang, the growth of galaxies, the formation of stars and planetary systems, individual exoplanets through direct imaging as well as transits in front of their host stars, and all objects in the solar system from Mars and beyond. It can observe reflected sunlight and thermal emission from a bumblebee at the distance of the moon. Webb is a joint project of NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies.
John Mather, a senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who specializes in infrared astronomy and cosmology, reviews Webb’s capabilities and planned observing program and illustrates the evolution of the concept from 1988 to the present.
Following the talk, Peter Plavchan, a professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University brings the skies into your living room with remote control of the GMU Observatory. Weather permitting, enjoy a remote tour of the observatory after the program.
Upcoming GMU Observatory programs
Wed., Nov. 17: Finding Earth 2.0
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