Two astronomers share their contributions to the James Webb telescope

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Husband and wife, Marcia J. Rieke and George Rieke, are University of Arizona Astronomers. They recently worked on NASA’s James Webb space telescope that launched on Christmas day. We talked to the Rieke’s about the roles they played in the project.

What is the James Webb telescope?

It’s a space telescope that, “got launched just a few weeks ago and is NASA’s big science mission and especially big for astronomy. It’s a telescope that’s about 21-feet across…which runs very cold,” Marcia Rieke said.

She continued that once it reaches its final orbit destination, it will be almost one million miles from earth.

This telescope is different from other past telescopes through the science of it.

“It looks at a whole bunch of new things like exoplanets around other stars, very very distant galaxies,” George Rieke said.

He added that if the galaxy is far enough away, the gas along the line of sight absorbs all of its light.

Marcia worked on the near-infrared camera of the telescope that has light sensors that can detect light 10-times the wavelength a human eye can see.

“We hope to be able to measure some of the molecules and atmospheres of those exoplanets and we want to detect the most distant galaxies that we possibly can,” Marcia Rieke said.

George worked on the mid-infrared instrument. It works on longer wavelengths from 1o-times visible light wavelength to 15-times.

George Rieke & Marcia J. Rieke, UA Regents Professors of Astronomy

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