Commonly known as one of NASA’s most expensive projects to date, the James Webb Telescope (JWST) is changing society’s perspective on space by the day.
Named after the administrator of NASA during the Apollo program, it is currently at the forefront of space research. It took over 20 years and ten billion dollars to build and was launched in December 2021.
Despite the steep cost, it is now providing insight into the first possible concrete evidence of alien life and the first images of some of the earliest galaxies ever formed.
On 2 August, NASA released photos taken by JWST showing details behind galactic mergers that were previously unknown. This has taken the world of astrophysics by storm as the information from the series of photographs lays the foundation for a deeper understanding of black holes and gravitational physics.
On 25 August, NASA released an article stating that JWST had found an exoplanet that contained carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. This is the first exoplanet of its kind that we know of, and its importance cannot be overstated. For carbon dioxide to appear in the atmosphere suggests that the planet may have living organisms. Such a discovery is one of many that astronomers have been fascinated with in relation to the JWST.
On 19 October, NASA released an article stating that JWST had taken a star-filled picture of the so-called ‘Pillars of Creation’. Such a discovery is monumental. 20 years prior, the Hubble Telescope had already taken a photo of the pillars of creation, but due to its limitations, the old photo was missing a large amount of the stars that the new photo contains. This is one of many photo retakes that prove that the universe is much larger than previously imagined.
On 17 November, NASA released an article stating that JWST had taken a picture of two of the universe’s earliest galaxies. One of the galaxies was formed 350 million years after the big bang and the other 450 million years after the big bang. To put in perspective, before the release of these pictures, the oldest galaxy discovered was formed one billion years after the big bang.
The photographs and evidence provided by the James Webb Telescope show that humanity is still only in the preliminary stages of understanding the universe.
The James Webb Telescope is nothing short of spectacular, and with it approaching its first year anniversary in service, there is no doubt that its contributions to astronomy will keep increasing.