Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe’s Origins: Could Aliens Be Involved?

The James Webb Space Telescope: A New Marvel of Instrumentation
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is set to launch and astrophysics communities are eagerly awaiting it. The JWST is designed to capture mostly infrared light, which is of a longer wavelength than what our eyes can see. It is a different kind of machine than the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The HST has been the most successful instrument in astronomical history, but the JWST will expand upon its groundwork, deepening our understanding of the universe near and far.

The Telescope’s Design and Mission
The JWST is stationed far away, at 1.5 million kilometers from Earth at a spot known as a Lagrange point. This point has gravitational attractions of the sun and Earth cancel out — a peaceful cosmic parking spot. The telescope comes with five layered sheets of Kapton foil, a sort of space umbrella to stop radiation interference. At the size of a tennis court, the shields are programmed to open during the telescope’s migration to its final position.

The eyes of the telescope are made of 18 hexagonal, gold-coated, beryllium mirrors, making up a giant honeycomb the size of a large house. The mirrors will capture and focus light from distant sources that will be sent off to the telescope’s four different instruments. The second big mission for the telescope is to aim its sights on exoplanets, planets orbiting stars in our galactic neighborhood, for signs of life.

Looking into the Universe’s Past and Mapping Exoplanets
The first mission of the JWST is to look into the very young universe by observing very far away objects, nascent galaxies and stars born about 13 billion years ago, which was only a few hundred million years after the big bang. The JWST aims to map out other worlds that may resemble our own, addressing the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.

Ultimately, the goal is to detect the chemical composition of the exoplanet atmospheres in the hope of finding the telltale signs of life, mainly oxygen, water, carbon dioxide, and methane. The telescope will detect the exoplanet around stars by observing the dimming of light as planets pass in front of their parent star. If the planet has an atmosphere, the telescope can analyze the light that passes through the atmosphere.

What Could Go Wrong
The current launch date of the JWST is set for December 18, 2021, a week before Christmas. As with any space launch of a complex instrument, there are many things that could go wrong, although extensive testing has built up confidence that all will go smoothly. If something goes wrong with the JWST, however, it is stationed so far from Earth that we cannot go to fix it, as we could with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The history of science has been written as a history of instrumentation, and the JWST is the next new marvel of instrumentation. As instruments become more powerful, they act as reality amplifiers allowing us a glimpse of what is invisible to the human eye. The mission of the JWST is to look deep into nature and change our vision of reality and our place within it. With each discovery, we dive a little deeper into the mystery of who we are and of what makes us both alike and different from what is out there in the universe.

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