Traveling in Time: The James Webb Telescope


Picture Courtesy of BBC Science }

For centuries, the notion of time travel seemed impossible. However, on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Telescope (JWST) launch redefined the boundaries of science within the frame of astronomy. Northrop Grumman, NASA and the European Space Agency’s leading manufacturing company for the project, and several other teams of scientists and engineers dedicated 20 years to developing the telescope. 

JWST’s 6.5-meter mirror is nearly three times the size of its predecessor, the Hubble Telescope. As the largest telescope in history, it begins its journey to discover the origins of our universe and capture unforeseen images of galaxies, solar systems, and exoplanets. 

While the Hubble Telescope also brought forth new images of galaxies, scientists expect this $10 billion telescope to yield far-more detailed observations due to its expansive mirror that absorbs more light. JWST is said to be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble. The key to this advancement resides in infrared light. 

As the universe expands, so does light. For this reason, farther, and therefore, older galaxies possess low-energy light, or infrared. The Hubble Telescope operates primarily on the visible spectrum. Meanwhile, the JWST absorbs infrared light, allowing us to “travel back in time” to view those galaxies, thus permitting us to dissect the origins of the universe from the Big Bang. 

As JWST orbits the Earth in its approximated 5-year timeline, it will make groundbreaking discoveries that will impact the world of science and humanity as a whole. However, this is not to say that it hasn’t already inspired many. Although it floats 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth, its impact runs through the very halls of Parkview High School. 

Back on Earth, Astronomy Club President and senior Waleed Ibrahim also holds high hopes for the Webb Telescope, as he incorporates prominent Astronomy events into club activities. “I do think that as the private sector takes over federally funded space agencies, we’ll see more inventions in the near future, and I look forward to seeing Parkview’s Astronomy Club continue to develop because of these important events,” said Ibrahim. After missing the opportunity to feature the launching of the JWST—due to its conflicting date with winter break—Ibrahim plans on holding a meeting this month to discuss the event and its impact. 

The James Webb Telescope isn’t just a new scientific invention; it is an emblem of collaboration and dedication. Parkview Astronomy Teacher Dustin Smith admires the global push to advance in the scientific field, such as this partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency. “Hopefully, as humanity starts to work together, we’ll get bigger discoveries,” said Smith. Indeed, this telescope only marks the beginning.