Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Seeing beyond the visible light spectrum

Recently, I discovered that NASA has a ton of multimedia available to bloggers about the James Webb Space Telescope, and as a space enthusiast, I knew I had to utilize these resources in a post.

Full scale JWST mockup

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a HUGE telescope slated to launch in 2018. It is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and has a different range of capabilities.

Webb vs Hubble primary mirror
Did I mention it was HUGE?! And those are just the mirrors!

Unlike Hubble, it can see "past" the visible light spectrum and into the infrared range of the light spectrum. This is really important because plenty of things in the universe are covered with dust that isn't penetrable by visible light, such as newly forming stars and planets, the center of the universe, and more. Infrared telescopes can penetrate the dust, however, and allow us to study things that we previously could not. Webb's giant mirror, pictured above, also give us capabilities to see further back in time to the earliest formations in our universe! It's pretty exciting stuff. (In fact, I was part of a group project a few years back and we made a rap and music video for JWST...If I can locate the video I'll be sure to share it!)

Here more about the James Webb Space Telescope in the below video, courtesy of NASA.

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