02Dec2018

NASA’s New Telescope Will Show First Stars Born

NASA’s newest and most powerful space telescope could change the face of astronomy, letting us glimpse some of the very first stars. When launched in two years it will reach its orbit position 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth.

An image of the Cartwheel Galaxy taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

An image of the Cartwheel Galaxy taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. CREDIT:NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope. NASA senior project scientist and Nobel Prize winner John Mather, who is visiting Australia, said it was designed to look further than ever before to the first stars and galaxies that formed. “If you were a bumblebee hovering at the distance of the moon, we would be able to see you,” Dr Mather said.

The telescope’s total length would be about half a Boeing 737 aeroplane and its gold-coated mirror about 6.5 metres in diameter. “It will send back very detailed pictures and it’s very sensitive if there is anything hiding out there that we never thought of before we might find it,” Dr Mather said.

“We would like to see how the first stars were born, they probably are different to the ones we have today, every prediction we have says they are different so we would like to know.” By looking at these early stars, the scientist hoped it would help answer the big questions of the galaxy.

Dr John Mather at Sydney Observatory. He is visiting Australia ahead of the launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

Dr John Mather at Sydney Observatory. He is visiting Australia ahead of the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. CREDIT:STEVEN SIEWERT

“We would like to know basically our own history; how did we people come to arise from the primordial material of the Big Bang?” he said. The James Webb Telescope might also be able to contribute to the search for other forms of life by helping researchers look for water on other planets.
If you were a bumble bee hovering at the distance of the moon we would be able to see you. NASA senior project scientist and Nobel prize winner, Dr John Mather “The chance that we have is to look at those other planets around other stars and see if they are like Earth, do they have the right size and temperature and do they have water?” Dr Mather said.

The telescope, a joint venture between the US, European and Canadian space agencies, is set to be launched in 2021 from the European Spaceport in French Guiana. Dr Mather will give a public lecture at the University of Sydney on Monday, December 3 at 3pm. Adapted: Sydney Morning Herald

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