The James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Telescope

26th September 2023 | Life Elsewhere, Tech stuff


The James Webb Space Telescope is a space telescope specifically designed to conduct infrared astronomy. Its high-resolution and high-sensitivity instrumentation allow it to view objects too old, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems. It was launched into orbit from the Guiana Space Centre on 25 December 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The telescope is named after James E. Webb, who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968.

Who is involved?

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration led Webb’s design and development in partnership with two main agencies: the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Primary contractor for the project was Northrop Grumman.  The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Maryland managed telescope development, while the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore on the Homewood Campus of Johns Hopkins University operates the James Webb.

Numerous countries and companies also contributed to the project. These are listed at: Institutional Partners Webb/NASA.

The goals

The James Webb Space Telescope has four key goals:
– to search for light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe
– to study galaxy formation and growth
– to understand star formation and planet formation
– to study planetary systems and the origins of life

Such goals will be accomplished more effectively by observation in near-infrared light rather than light in the visible part of the spectrum. For this reason, Webb’s instruments will not measure visible or ultraviolet light like the Hubble Telescope but will have a significantly greater capacity to perform infrared astronomy. Webb will be sensitive to a range of wavelengths from 0.6 to 28 μm (corresponding respectively to orange light and deep infrared radiation at about 100 K or −173 °C).


The James Webb telescope is the largest and most complex and powerful space telescope ever built.  As such it will enable investigation of the early history of the universe and will greatly expand the means to detect sentient life episodes. The more we look, the more we will find!

Further Reading and References

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