The telescope James Webb, which will take off next Saturday from Guiana French, will allow “rewrite astronomy”And provide unpublished data on the origin of the universe thanks to its new components and its design that make it unique.
As explained to EFE Geronimo Villanueva, astronomer of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, in conversation by zoom, the telescope is scheduled to separate from the rocket (a Ariane 5) in the first thirty minutes after takeoff, scheduled for 07.20 local time (12.20 GMT) if weather conditions permit, as there have already been several delays for this reason.
Subsequently, in the following days, the full deployment of the telescope will take place, which Villanueva described as “the most dramatic part”, Since it involves the opening of a platform as large as a tennis court whose function will be that of a multi-layered parasol that protects the core of the telescope, which weighs about 6,500 kilograms, from infrared radiation.
The James Webb, named after a former administrator of the POT, will be the largest space science observatory in the world and is a joint mission of the POT, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency.
In search of infrared
What distinguishes the James Webb of the previous generations of telescopes is that it will observe the universe in the infrared spectrum, so it will be able to observe the first galaxies, those closest to the moment of the Big Bang.
“This will allow you to look at very great distances, which is equivalent to looking into the past playing with the speed of light: the further we look, the further back we go in time”, Explains the astronomer, who adds another great advantage of James Webb: its enormous size, which allows it to capture very weak signals so far undetectable and thus approach the origin of the universe.
The James Webb It thus represents a qualitative leap with respect to Hubble, focused mainly on visible light, so the new telescope will have a much more distant observation capacity. Why is it so important to collect this information from billions of years?
Villanueva understands that there is a “philosophical relevance, that of understanding the origin of the Universe, where we come from; those existential connotations of the matter that composes us”, And gives an example: if the telescope allows us to understand how molecules and elementary particles originate, this knowledge can be applied to physics and the development of new materials in science. Earth.
Ten years of life extendable
The James Webb has been designed to have a minimum useful life of five years, extendable up to ten, but in reality “can work for decades, is designed to stay operational much longer”, As happened with the Hubblerecalls the astronomer, whose life has been extended thanks to the fact that he is gone “reinventing” during decades.
For this, it has been very important to provide it with what he called “a redundancy system”, That is, each one of the most sensitive elements is repeated several times so that if it breaks down, and given the impossibility of human intervention to repair it, this will allow each faulty element to be detached by a similar one; This will mainly make it possible to keep the vital communication system active.
Another factor that will allow to prolong its life is going to be the question of fuel: the “parking space”Where will the James Webb -known as Lagrange point 2– it is a place chosen for its stability within the solar system, which allows it to remain active with very little fuel, he explained Villanueva.
For a time, the Webb and the Hubble they will coexist, and this coexistence is considered very rich from the scientific point of view because it will allow the two telescopes to simultaneously observe the same objective and send the data of their observations to be able to compare them.
Data accessible to all Humanity
About the ownership or use of the data, Villanueva clarified that the first observations that James Webb transmits are going to be of immediate and public use, and that includes what in scientific jargon is called “early release science” Y “guaranteed time observations”: Both will be immediately communicable and actionable.
“One of our goals is that the James Webb is a legacy for humanity and for science in general, as has been the Hubble”, He emphasized Villanueva. Subsequently, it is true that the three space agencies – American, European and Canadian – have designed specific programs with precise observation agendas that will be stored exclusively for a year, but after that time they will become available without restrictions for the entire population. world, he specified.
By last, Villanueva also addressed the controversy associated with the name of the telescope, as an internal movement of astronomers has requested to change its name as it is now known that, beyond its scientific contributions, James Webb He was a person with deeply homophobic behaviors.
Without entering the controversy, Villanueva regretted that this question has obscured the work of the hundreds of people who have made the telescope possible – a thousand in its conception and manufacture, and between 200 and 300 from now to process its data -, and considered that the question constitutes a warning scientific agencies about the risks of customizing great scientific inventions.
(With information from EFE) .-
How it works and what the mighty James Webb Space Telescope will observe