“The Extraordinary First Year of Science of the James Webb Space Telescope” Pro ISSI Talk with Dr. Antonella Nota

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is one of the most ambitious scientific mission ever flown, over 100 times more sensitive than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

JWST has been designed to answer outstanding questions about the Universe and to make breakthrough discoveries in ALL fields of astronomy. Accessible to the scientific community worldwide, Webb is designed and built to offer scientists the capabilities needed to push the frontiers of knowledge of our own Solar System, of the formation of stars and planets, including planets outside our Solar System (exoplanets), and of galaxy assembly and evolution, in ways never before possible. 

Webb is observing the Universe in the near-infrared and mid-infrared. It carries a suite of state-of-the-art astronomical instruments capable of addressing a very broad spectrum of outstanding problems in astrophysics. The instrument complement includes powerful cameras, spectrographs, and coronagraphs, designed specifically to observe faint objects and structures in close proximity to very bright celestial targets.  The telescope was launched on December 25, 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, from where it embarked on a month-long journey to its final orbit about one and a half million kilometres from Earth, at what is called the second Lagrange point or L2. In the first three weeks after launch, Webb unfolded its five-layered sunshield, and deployed its  gold coated beryllium 6.5-metre primary mirror.  The launch and deployment were executed flawlessly and after a few months  of telescope and instrument verifications, the observatory was ready for science. The speaker will review these very first phases in the mission, the early excitement of realizing that, from the first data received, the observatory  performance was already exceeding the expectations of its designers and builders. One year later, JWST is producing a steady stream of breakthrough results in all field of astrophysics. The speaker will review the most significant recent  highlights and show how JWST is already changing the way we see the Universe.

Pro ISSI talk was recorded on November 1, 2023