NASA Reveals First Targets For James Webb Space Telescope: Exoplanets, Distant Galaxies & Solar System

First Posted: Jun 21, 2017 06:29 AM EDT

Mission officials for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have announced some of the science targets that the telescope will study after it has been launched and commissioned. The scientific observations will be part of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO) that provides dedicated time to the researchers that helped develop and create four instruments on the telescope.

“From the very first galaxies after the Big Bang, to searching for chemical fingerprints of life on Enceladus, Europa, and exoplanets like TRAPPIST-1e, Webb will be looking at some incredible things in our universe,” James Webb Space Telescope Director Eric Smith said. “With over 2100 initial observations planned, there is no limit to what we might discover with this incredible telescope.”

According to Deccan Chronicle, the initial GTO observations will look at all the areas that Webb has been developed to investigate. This will include phenomena like first light to the assembly of galaxies to the origin of stars and planets. The targets of the mission will vary and include outer planets of the solar system like Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter, the icy Kuiper Belt and planets located in the distant galaxies in the young universe.

The observation time that Webb is going to follow for the science targets is scheduled in a series of cycles. The first cycle will comprise of nearly 8,700 hours or a year. Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute Dr. Ken Sembach added that he was pleased that the development of the Webb mission has reached the point where it is possible for the wider scientific community to start the selection of targets and create observations.

Webb has been created to help and extend the scientific capabilities of other missions by NASA such as the Hubble Space Telescope. On the completion and launch, it will be the most powerful space telescope ever created. The telescope is a collaboration among the American space agency, European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

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