By Helee Shukla
For 13.8 billion years, the universe has been expanding, morphing and stretching in every way possible. Every second, stars are exploding, galaxies are colliding and black holes are forming.
However, it has only been a year since humankind successfully captured these marvels in high resolution, illustrating key events in the universe that were once invisible to every preceding instrument. These images are the beginning of what is yet to come with the James Webb Telescope.
“The limit isn’t the sky anymore—it's endless...”
The telescope had been under construction for over 30 years, costing NASA a staggering $10 billion. Webb distinguishes itself from Hubble, a telescope launched in 1990 that was previously one of NASA’s most valuable research assets, because of its use of infrared light to see through cosmic dust clouds, illuminating planets and stars that reside there. Additionally, instead of orbiting the Earth from a few hundred kilometers away, Webb orbits the Sun from 1.5 million kilometers away, allowing the telescope to look further back in time.
This summer, at a ceremony at the Goddard Space Flight Center, the telescope's images were presented to the public, leaving people in awe at the beauty of what lies in the universe’s crevices billions of light years away.
“After I saw the images for the first time, I was blown away by how extraordinary they are. It’s truly magnificent to be able to see incredible detail in such a small section of the universe,” junior Sania Daniyal said.
Webb has already recorded groundbreaking occurrences, one being the Southern Ring Nebula, a cloud of star remnants. The telescope uncovered hints of carbon chains present in the cloud, which astronomers theorize to be associated with the birth of life. Webb has even been able to record the aftermath of NASA’s Double Asteroid Refraction Test (DART), the first mission to deflect an asteroid with spacecraft. The experiment was successful, and the images generated by Webb showing the impact site before and after the collision have motivated astronomers to consider tracking faster-moving asteroids.
The asteroid’s chemical composition will also be examined by the telescope’s infrared analyzer. This data will assist astronomers in their larger goal, which is to construct a spacecraft capable of deflecting asteroids that are approaching Earth. Webb’s space pursuits have mesmerized students, inspiring them to stay curious and dive deeper into the unknown.
Artwork by Debarati Chowdhury
The James Webb telescope is breaking barriers for space technology.
“The James Webb Telescope and the DART mission is just one example of the importance of scientific exploration and the power of human curiosity. This is just the beginning of space research, and I can’t wait to make an impact on it. The limit isn’t the sky anymore—it's endless,” senior Aakarsh Gupta said.
“There are probably hundreds of things scientists can do with the James Webb telescope that are way beyond my understanding. It really reminds me that science isn’t just something we learn about in school, but an ongoing process to discover more about the world we live in,” senior Paul Wang said.
The James Webb telescope has only provided a glimpse into the 13.8 billion years humanity has missed, but it still has students at New Hyde Park on the edge of their seats over what it will explore next. The telescope possesses advanced astronomy, as well as the positive sentiment society has of it, encouraging curiosity beyond numbers.