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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

Context:

Recently, The United States space research agency NASA said in a release that its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe that has ever been seen, heralding a major event in astronomy. The JWST is the largest and most powerful telescope ever built.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?
  2. What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?
  3. How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?

What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?

  • The telescope has been in the works for years. NASA led its development with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • It was launched aboard a rocket on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
    • Lagrange Point 2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
  • Named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, the points are in any revolving two-body system like Earth and Sun, marking where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out.
  • Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there, and so many instruments are positioned here.
  • L2 is a position directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth. It would be shielded from the Sun by the Earth as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.

What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?

NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope will be “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins”, as it will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own Solar System.

The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes.

  • To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
  • To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
  • To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
  • To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system), and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will also study objects within our own Solar System.

How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?

  • JWST is much more powerful and has the ability to look in the infrared spectrum, which will allow it to peer through much deeper into the universe, and see-through obstructions such as gas clouds.
  • As electromagnetic waves travel for long distances, they lose energy, resulting in an increase in their wavelength. An ultraviolet wave, for example, can slowly move into the visible light spectrum and the infrared spectrum, and further weaken to microwaves or radio waves, as it loses energy.
  • Hubble was designed to look mainly into the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. JWST is primarily an infrared telescope, the first of its kind.

-Source: Indian Express


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October 2022
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