This amazing telescope is unlocking the secrets of the universe
by David Morton
On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launched from Europe’s Spaceport in South America. This US$10 billion project represents the combined effort of over 1,200 committed professionals from 14 countries. It is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever made, and its sole purpose is to unlock the deepest mysteries of the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mission is to study the light of the earliest stars, peering further back into our cosmic past than ever before. These observations will help us understand how our universe was born, as well as provide insights into the life cycles of stars and galaxies.
This telescope is designed to observe some of the dimmest stellar objects in the night sky. How dim? According to Mike Menzel, the JWST’s mission systems engineer, it’s as dim as something 1/20th as bright as a five-watt bulb placed on the moon. This amazing sensitivity is due to its ability to detect infrared light, a type of light that is invisible to human eyes. As a result, it can see deep into the night sky, observing stellar objects whose light might otherwise be absorbed by clouds of gas and cosmic dust.