How does the James Webb Telescope See into the Past

James Webb Space Telescope is the most amazing time machine ever built by man. The machine that can see the into the past and the wonderful beginning of the Universe!!

It is so powerful that It can capture the heat signature of the bumblebee even if a bumblebee is at a distance as the moon.

Everyone from astronauts, cosmologists to astronomy lovers are eagerly waiting for this telescope.

So, have you ever wondered why scientists are so eagerly waiting for this telescope? How does the James Webb Telescope See into the Past? Also, who is James Webb? and how far can the james webb telescope see?

Let’s find out how it will change our understanding of the Universe.

How does the James Webb Telescope See into the Past

In 1995, Hubble telescope took an image named “The Hubble Deep Field”.

In this image, there are some galaxies as old as 13.2 billion years old which formed just after 450 million years after Big Bang. But, Hubble is not capable to see beyond that.

Webb has the capacity to see beyond that as it is infrared sensitive. The larger wavelengths allow this telescope to look much closer to the early universe.

It means it could see the earliest galaxies and stars that just formed after the Big Bang.

Thus, it will help us to understand the development of galaxies over billions of years, the development of the early universe, the composition of the early universe, and much more.

How does the James Webb Telescope work

james webb telescope images
James Webb Telescope Images

James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most powerful telescope mankind has ever built. It is the most powerful infrared telescope.

The mirrors of the Webb are made of very strong and lightweight beryllium which is coated with gold.

The mirrors are specially designed to see the universe in infrared and to detect faint lights coming from distant stars and galaxies.

Infrared light can travel long distances in space and also they can penetrate giant dust clouds in space.

It means that it can capture infrared images of distant stars and galaxies. It can capture images of early stars and galaxies.

It will further enhance our understanding of the universe and will unfold a lot of the secrets of the universe.

Infrared Telescope vs Visible Light Telescope

Heart and Soul Nebula
Heart and Soul Nebula

The light coming from distant objects travels in space in a wide range of frequencies. The different spectrums of light are Visible light, infrared light, radio waves, ultraviolet light, gamma rays, x-rays, and microwaves.

Out of these spectrums, infrared light can travel long distances in space and can penetrate giant dust clouds in the interstellar space.

Visible light can not travel long distances in space and also dust clouds in interstellar space absorb visible light.

But, it is difficult to do infrared observations on the earth’s surface as infrared light coming from outer space gets absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. That’s why space telescope is the best choice for infrared observations.

Webb is an infrared telescope, so it can take images in the infrared spectrum. Whereas Hubble telescope is focused on visible and ultraviolet light which allows it to captures images in the visible spectrum.

In other words, we can say Hubble telescope is a giant human eye floating in space.

Discovery and Study of New Exoplanets

study of Exoplanets with the help of James Webb Space Telescope

Are we alone in this Universe? Is there extraterrestrial life on another planet? man has been searching for answers to these fundamental questions for the last thousand years.

Webb will also be used for finding new exoplanets.

It will detect a dimming of light when the planet passes between it and star to find new exoplanets. This method is called a transit method.

Webb will detect the chemical composition of the atmosphere of exoplanets by the technique of spectroscopy.

Spectroscopy is a technique in which the spectrum of light coming from exoplanet is analyzed, to find the chemical composition of the atmosphere of the exoplanet.

The Chemical composition of the atmosphere of an exoplanet tells us about the ability of that exoplanet to sustain life.

Birth of stars and planetary systems

Dust Clouds
Dust Clouds

In astronomy, we still have a lot of unanswered questions about the process of development of a new solar system.

Problem is that we can not see newborn stars as it is always covered with dust clouds and these dust clouds absorb the visible light emitted by that newborn stars.

But, infrared light can penetrate these dust clouds. Webb is an infrared observatory so it can capture infrared light coming from such newborn stars and give us valuable insight about the development of newborn stars and planetary systems.

Cone Nebula
Cone Nebula

The above image is of Cone nebula located in constellation unicorn.

Nebulae are giant dust clouds located in space. The nebula is a region of space where new stars are formed.

But, as you can see in the above image, we can’t see these newborn stars due to giant dust clouds. But, by capturing infrared light coming from the nebula, Webb can see newborn stars hidden behind the dust clouds.

It will help us to reveal lot of interesting facts of the universe in future.

James Webb Space telescope Vs Hubble

Webb is considered as a successor to the Hubble telescope. It is an infrared telescope as a Spitzer telescope.

But, in reality, it is 100 times more powerful than Hubble and 1000 times more powerful than a Spitzer.

The primary mirror of Webb is 6.5 meters whereas the primary mirror of Hubble is 2.4 meters. Webb is the biggest space telescope ever built by a man so it is much bigger than Hubble and spitzer.

Webb is the most expensive space telescope, man has ever built. James Webb space telescope cost overrun $10 billion in 2020.

Main instruments

1) Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam)

NIRCam is Webb’s primary camera. It will capture infrared wavelengths ranging from 0.6 to 5 microns.

NIRCam will detect light from the earliest galaxies, young stars in the Milky Way.

NIRCam is equipped with an instrument called Coronagraphs. Coronagraphs will help to detect exoplanets rotating around the bright stars.

2) Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSPEC)

Near-Infrared Spectrograph will work over a wavelength ranging from 0.6 to 5 microns.

The spectrograph is a device that can analyze the spectrum of an object. By analyzing the spectrum of an object it can tell us about the physical properties of an object like temperature, chemical properties, and mass. NIRSPEC can observe 100 objects simultaneously.

3) The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)

Mid-Infrared Instrument is equipped with both camera and Spectrograph.

It detects the wavelengths ranging from 5 to 28 microns which are a mid-infrared region. It could see the distant galaxies, newborn stars, and objects in a Kuiper Belt.

4) Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS)

FGS/NIRISS can detect wavelengths ranging from 0.8 to 5 microns.

Fine Guidance System helps Webb to point accurately to obtain high-quality images. Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless will detect the exoplanets.

Who is James Webb?

Finally, who is James Webb? It is named after James Edwin Webb.

He was the 2nd administrator of NASA. He served NASA from February 14, 1961, to October 7, 1968.

In 2002, Webb telescope named after him as a tribute to him.

when will James Webb Telescope Launch

Webb telescope is planned to launch in October 2021. It will be launched on Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. It’s mission time is 5 to 10 years. But, due to the recent coronavirus crisis, it is unclear whether it will be launched on the decided schedule or not.

There is no doubt that James Webb Space Telescope will reveal a lot of secrets of this Universe. Let’s hope that it would be launched at it’s scheduled time.

Chetan Patil is a Mechanical Engineer and a part-time blogger. He likes to read, learn, and share interesting facts about this world. He enjoys writing about astronomy and history.
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