What’s just over the current frontier will soon be revealed.
Cumulatively, astronomical data helps scientists reconstruct what happened in our Universe’s past.
Despite the full suite of modern telescopes, our present data sets cannot answer every question.
Only observatories with superior capabilities will solve those mysteries.
After years of development, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete.
Only shipping and rocket/launch site readiness remain as pre-launch obstacles.
Assuming successful post-launch deployment, five scientific revolutions likely await.
1.) The earliest stars. We have not yet seen the first post-Big Bang stars.
Webb’s mid-infrared eyes should reveal objects from 13.6 billion years ago: unprecedentedly early.
2.) How black holes form. The youngest quasars are already quite massive.
Webb should match quasars to host galaxies, uncovering black hole growth in the young Universe.
3.) Stellar lifecycles. Stars in their death throes create heavy elements throughout the cosmos.
By studying interstellar dust, Webb will reveal how aging, massive stars and supernovae enrich the Universe.
4.) How planetary systems form. Protoplanetary disks are nature’s laboratory for planet formation.
Webb will observe their inner regions, precisely identifying elemental and molecular abundances throughout them.
5.) Direct exo-atmosphere measuring. Webb’s coronagraph will block a star’s light, revealing its orbiting planets.
Life’s precursor molecules, and perhaps even biosignatures, could soon be discovered.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.