The James Webb Space Telescope Will Truly Do What Hubble Only Dreamed Of
“By the same token, the James Webb Space Telescope will teach us an incredible amount about the Universe, including further details about how stars form, what the earliest stellar populations look like, will show us gas giants and rogue planets in unprecedented detail and will tell us what made up the Universe at any given time in the past. It will show us a whole slew of things that Hubble cannot, by virtue of it reaching to much longer wavelengths of light than Hubble could ever hope to see. And with its huge, large-aperture primary mirror, it will be able to collect more light in a single day than Hubble could in a week. The most exciting things, of course, will be the unexpected: the things we’ll discover that we don’t even know to look for yet.
But even if you don’t learn about any of the science that James Webb will bring to us, there’s one thing it will deliver that everyone can enjoy: the James Webb Space Telescope will show us how the Universe grew up.”
The Hubble Space Telescope, for all of its scientific findings and how it revolutionized our understanding of the Universe itself, touched us all in a way that no piece of knowledge could ever encapsulate. In perhaps the greatest find of all, Hubble answered a question that many of us have had on our minds every time we’ve gazed up at a night sky: what does the Universe actually look like? From its images of star-forming regions, stellar deaths, galaxies, gravitational lenses and the deep abyss of empty space, it’s awed us in a way no other observatory ever has. But James Webb is poised to do us one better, and show us something Hubble never could. It will show us how the Universe went from a state with no stars, no planets, and no galaxies to the Universe we know, recognize and inhabit today.
How the Hubble Space Telescope changed the Universe
“And so this camera has taught us a lot about how stars die. But what it’s also told us about is how and where they’re born! You see, these nebulae don’t just dissipate after a few thousand years; they often spit out entire star systems worth of gas, and trigger the formation of new stars. One of the most spectacular pictures took place deep inside the Eagle Nebula.
And when Hubble imaged the pillars at the center of it, it was one of the most amazing things ever.”
Over its more than 25 year lifetime, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us what the Universe truly looks like. It’s done so in a myriad of ways, from planets to stars – dying and forming – to galaxies to gravity’s effects to the deepest abysses of blackness of all. Nothing in space is the same as it was before humanity knew Hubble. Yet even the camera most responsible for our iconic images, WFPC2, isn’t the end of the story. That camera was removed in 2009, and in the 8 years since, we’ve deepened our views and our understanding even further. Even before the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, our journey into the unknown Universe continues with Hubble in a way we never could have imagined when the observatory was first launched.
As far as astronomers know, this universe of ours is nearly 14 billion years old and 93 billion light-years across. Only objects closer than between 10 to 12 billion light-years distant will ever be visible due to the expansion of the universe.
Recently, a new survey upped the believed galactic population from around 100 billion to TWO TRILLION.
Images: Top: NGC 1365 Credit:
Jason Jennings Bottom: Hubble Deep Field added to the background of NGC 1365 Credit: NASA/ESA
This may well be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it–that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72
NGC 4036 by Judy Schmidt Via Flickr: Lenticular galaxies are the masters of subtlety. I crave subtlety. Few people pay much attention to anything unless it’s loud and in your face. Do you ever get tired of that? The way we hack into the nature of our perception to get one step ahead of someone else? For what? Another “like”? Another “retweet”? It’s pointless.
Despite my own words I have heavily used some processing techniques to bring this one’s details into perceptible range for most humans. The dust and the faint ridges are much more gentle in reality. One lonely Milky Way star appears near the center.