What Is the James Webb Space Telescope? Details


Recently NASA put the image taken by the James Webb space telescope in the public domain. These are truly mesmerizing and unprecedented photos which tell us interesting things about the universe. One of these photos gives us the oldest glimpses of the universe. We can watch up to 13.1 billion years in the past. In another, we discovered an alien exoplanet where water or H2O, has been found. Let’s try to understand this new discovery….

James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever built. Every image is a new discovery, and each will give humanity a view of the universe that we have never seen before. And so, the web is able to look at the formation of the first stars and the first galaxies. The web is tremendously exciting. Light from other worlds, orbiting stars, far beyond our own. It’s astounding me in many ways.”

All about the James Webb Space Telescope

This James Webb Space telescope cost about 10 billion dollars.  NASA spent almost 25 years working out on its design and development. and most interestingly the spot where this telescope is located currently, it is operating at the temperature of – 266.75°Celsius. It is so cold that it is almost at the absolute zero temperature of -273° Celsius, temperature cannot fall beyond this. It is only a few degrees warmer than the absolute zero temperature. To maintain this temperature, the James Webb Space Telescope rotates around the sun. About 1.5 million km from Earth, there is a point known as the l2 point there as it is always in the earth’s shadow in the way that it can safely orbit the sun. As you can see in the picture below, to block out the rest of sunlight a sunshield has been attached behind it. It is nearly as big as a tennis court. Do you know what the focal length of this telescope is?… Those of you who use DSLR cameras as a hobby would know the lens of those cameras usually has the focal length somewhere around 24 mm, 35mm or 50 mm. the focal length of James Webb Space Telescope is more than 2500 times of a DSLR camera which is 131.4 meters. Its men’s mirror weighs around 705 kgs.

Photos taken by James Webb Space Telescope

 Let me tell you this is our electromagnetic spectrum,

james webb space telescope
photo : Nasa

Different electromagnetic waves have different wavelengths. In it, a tiny spectrum of visible light that can be seen. the light which we can see without naked eyes. The rainbow colours which are VIBGYOR-violet, Indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red. The wavelength ranges from 0.38 to 0.7 micrometer. The wavelengths higher than red are known as infrared, and the wavelength on which this James Webb Space Telescope can take pictures ranges from 0.6 to 28 micrometres. Basically, this telescope works with the infrared part. Its advantage is that you can look through the gases and clouds, because of the larger wavelength of the infrared. When the wavelength is longer than it is easier to go through the objects. Such as the Radio waves, whose wavelength is in kilometres, we can listen to them with the help of the radio, those waves can pass through our homes and walls.

Two infrared cameras are mounted in this telescope…

1. The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCAM)

To capture the sorter infrared wavelengths

2. Mid-Infrared Instruments (MIRI)

To capture the longer infrared wavelength.

The photos can be different depending on which camera is used. Look at the photo below, this photo of SOUTHERN RING NEBULA is taken by NIRCAM. When these photos were released by NASA it went viral on social media.

Photo of southern ring nebula by NIRCAM james webb space telescope
Photo: images4.fanpop.com

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But the same photo was taken by the MIRI cam as well and the same thing looks like this on the MIRI cam. The dust clouds which were visible in the picture by NIRCAM don’t show up much on the MIRI cam because the wavelength of the MIRI cam is more so it is easy for it to get through the objects.

In both the pictures taken by NIRCAM and MIRI cam, we are seeing the death of a star. two stars orbiting around each other, the more shining star is at the early stages of its life, and the dimmed star is dying. While dying the last thousands of years, this star has been releasing clouds of gases and dust. Nebula is the planetary of cloud of gases and dust and because the two stars are orbiting each other, the cloud keeps getting swished around. In the NIRCAM photo, you can see only one star but in the MIRI cam photo the cloud is quite muted and you can clearly see the two stars.

● Photos released by NASA

1. A PHOTO OF DEEP FIELD SMACS 0723 – The first photos released by NASA was this one, a photo of DEEP FIELD SMACS 0723 by NIRCAM

Photo: webbtelescope.org

This photo gives you a glimpse from 13 billion years ago. In this photo we can basically see a galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The galaxies closer to our camera have a high gravitational force such that they are distorting the light coming behind them. it creates a magnifying glass of sorts. This phenomenon has been named Gravitational lensing. With its  help we can see objects behind it. It isn’t a photo which was simply clicked by the telescope as is, it took 12.5 hours to take this photo. Actually, the telescope had to take several different images at different wavelengths and later combined them and we are now seeing this combined photo. In this the galaxies that appear redder in colour are farther from us. the redder the galaxy, the farther it is.

2. stephan's Quintet

STEPHAN'S quintet
Photo: littleastronomy.com

It is a cluster of five galaxys. the prefix “quin”  is used for the number 5, such as the “quad” is used for 4, the quintet is more of a Quartet because the leftmost galaxy among them, are 40 million light years away from us, and the other four galaxies or about 290 million light years away from us. As you can see, the photo of the leftmost galaxy’s looks more HD if you zoom into this photo, while the other four galaxies look blurred. These four galaxies are so close to each other that the dust particles and the stars located in them have started colliding and getting entracted  with each other. We can see the effect of the gravitational force on one another. For scientists, this is immensely interesting to see and they want to know what happens when galaxies get too close to one another.

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3. A photo of CARINA NEBULA

james web space telescope
photo: nasa

It is the most beautiful photo released by NASA, in this photo we can see the birth of a star. In earlier photos, we saw the death of stars, now we will witness the birth of star. The mountain ranges kinda thing in this picture is named as COSMIC CLIFFS. This is again a Nebula. Nebula is a bright lighted area formed by clouds of dust and gases. You can think of it as a big shiny cloud, in Hindi it is known as Niharika. This specific Nebula is named as Kareena Nebula. If we go back to the life cycle of the stars, we all can see that the star is born at the stage of a Stellar Nebula. so in this photo, we can see the birth of the stars.

4. A spectrographic data of the Planet WASP-96B

This is an artistic visualization of the exoplanet WASP-96b, which appears blue. (Engine House)
photo: www.foxnews.com

It is the most interesting Photo. It is not even a Photo. But this has grasped the curiosity of most of the scientists. It is spectrographic data of the planet WASP-96B. It is an exoplanet 1,150 light years away from us. An exoplanet is a planet that lies outside our solar system. apart from the two cameras the James Webb Telescope is equipped with a NIRISS. NIRISS stands for Near Infra-Red Imager and Slitless Spectrograph. Spectrograph is an instrument which measures the intensity of the various wavelengths of light. For 6.5 hours, the NIRISS measured the light coming from this planet and the resultant measurement was this light curve.

photo: webbtelescope.org

The data planted on this graph tells us that there is water on this planet,H2O. additionally. there is some Haze and clouds as well, you might wonder how can we determine whether a planet has water or not simply by measuring light?…..Even though we haven’t even seen its photo…. the answer to it is very simple as we know, each colour has a distinct wavelength of light. all the colourful world that we see is an illusion created by the wavelength. For example, why do we see trees, plants and leaves as green in colour because they contain chlorophyll… Chlorophyll is unique because it absorbs red and blue color wavelengths and the wavelength which it cannot absorb, that is the green colour, is what we can see. Similarly the water in Ocean looks blue to us because it is water’s property to absorb the other wavelengths of red, yellow and orange, and since it cannot absorb the blue wavelength present in light, we see it as blue in colour. The same logic can be applied in reverse as well, if you pass light through a leaf then in the light on the other side the red and blue wavelength would be blocked. If we measure it through respectrograph and create a chart, we will be able to see a certain pattern with which we can draw the conclusion that if the same pattern is repeated somewhere else it is most likely that the second thing is  similar to the leaf, or may even be a leaf itself. the light from the WASP-96B was captured by the James Webb telescope,

photo: forteanwinds.com

and a graph was prepared on the spectrograph, and the block wavelengths of light were analyzed. scientists know the exact ratio of blockage of wavelengths to know which molecule of light had to pass through, that’s why the graph that you can see below,

photo: webbtelescope.org

has the wavelengths of light on the X-axis and the amount of light blocked is on the Y-axis. The scientists were aware of the fact that if some amount of light is blocked at a particular wavelength, it will be the evidence of the presence of H2O. The same thing happened here and so we can conclude that there is water on this exoplanet. If you are happy knowing that the presence of water on this planet may signify the presence of life on it, that we might find aliens. then don’t be so happy because this planet is not habitable. scientists have discovered other facts about the planet …. (1) first of all, closeness of the planet to its star, (2) the size of the Planet…. with those parameters they have estimated data temperature of that planet is more than 530°Celsius, so the chances of finding aliens on this planet are next to none.

But over the next few months, the James Webb Space Telescope will analyse another planet, it will be pointed towards a new planet to take pictures of that planet which is set to be one of the most potentially habitable.

● TRAPPIST - 1E Planet

According to theoretical calculations it has been estimated that in our Milky way galaxy, there are about 300 million potential habitable planets, where humans can survive, where life can be found. But practically, with what we have seen and observed in the Milky Way galaxy, we have analysed only about 5000 exoplanets, not even the potentially habitable 5000 planets. We have observed about 5000 exoplanets in total. Although several of them are potentially habitable. In November 2018, researchers had found that of all the exoplanets observed by now, one of those planets has the highest chance of being a habitable planet. one of where can live be found, it resembles earth the most. This planet was named TRAPPIST – 1E. Scientists claimed that if we were looking for habitability, this would be the most worthy candidate.

Picture of TRAPPIST 1E

This exoplanet is nearly 40 light years away from us. This planet is not that far from the earth as we compare it to other exoplanets. The star around which this planet orbits is not like our Sun, instead it is an ultra cool dwarf star, named the TRAPPIST 1. It is quite cooler than our Sun, that’s why it is known as ultra cool, but the distance between the star and this planet is lesser than the distance between earth and the sun so, the temperature on this planet remains in the habitable zone. on the top of it, the dimensions on the planet is quite similar to the earth, it’s radius is 91% of the earth radius, It’s total mass is 77% of Earth’s mass, Density is 102% of Earth’s density, and the gravity on the surface is 93% of the Earth’s gravity. It is also being confirmed that there is a surface of solid rocks on this planet. The temperature is so cold on this planet that liquid water can exist on it, but not so cold that it freezes.

Over the next few months the James Webb telescope will analyse this exoplanet in detail, it will check whether its atmosphere contains carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour or not. If a certain combination of these gases are detected, it will help us to conclude that there might be life on that planet. but one thing is for sure, the scientists believed that if any exoplanet has to sustain life, three main things should be present there which is liquid water, solid surface and atmosphere where a certain combination of these gases is present.

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