Five ways to create balance and symmetry in your space
The space telescope launched next week will carry the hopes and dreams of Halifax researcher Marcin Sawicki, who helped develop the onboard instrument.
The telescope will be able to take pictures of the first stars that appeared in the universe after the Big Bang.
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch on December 24 at the earliest from the French port of Guiana in South America.
The telescope, about the size of a school bus while sitting on the tip of the rocket, will be the size of a tennis court once it reaches its final destination 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, five or six times the distance from the Moon. .
The telescope is so sensitive that it will be able to take pictures of what the first stars in the universe looked like about 13.5 billion years ago. This is the time it took for the light to reach us.
“When the universe came out of the Big Bang, there were no stars, no galaxies, no light,” said Sawicki, a professor in the Department of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University and director of the Institute for Computational Astrophysics. “It was a very, very dark place.
Hopefully, the first stars will start to appear in the first galaxies. That is why Webb is designed to discover and reveal all the first sources of light: the cosmic dawn, as we like to say.”
Over the past 20 years, Sawicki has been involved in developing an instrument called NIRISS (Near Infrared Imager and Slit Spectrophotometer) that will be aboard the telescope.
The instrument will detect galaxies and very distant exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars outside our solar system.
Sawicki said NIRISS splits the light from everything in its field of view into a spectrum, like a rainbow. By looking at the intensity of the different colors, scientists will be able to tell how far away an object is.
The spectrometer is one of two instruments built in Canada aboard the telescope, along with the precision-guidance sensor, which will allow the telescope to stay fixed on a specific target.
Due to Sawicki’s involvement, he and his team will have exclusive access to some of the telescope’s data for a year.
100 times more powerful than Hubble
The Webb Telescope is about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble, which can capture light from about 12 billion years ago. He said the difference between how these early galaxies, what Sawicki calls “small galaxies,” look like from Hubble and what they would look like from the Web, is huge.
“It’s kind of a difference between seeing newborns and seeing toddlers, you know, kindergarten kids. It’s a big difference.”
Sawicki said he thinks it’s important to learn more about the oldest galaxies, because they contain the history of Earth and all humans on it.
These stars, like our Sun, contain many chemical elements that were formed in previous generations of stars. So all the chemical elements in your body, except for hydrogen, have been turned into a star.”
“This is our history, this is our past, this is our origins. This is the thrill of looking back to see where we came from.
In addition to showing what the first galaxies looked like, the telescope will help scientists understand how galaxies evolved over time, Sawicki said.
What types of physical changes do they occur? How quickly do they build up their bodies and mass, assemble new stars, and produce these chemical elements? «
Once the Webb telescope reaches its destination, it will undergo a series of tests before beginning to transmit data in about six months.