Arizona astronomers work on the James Webb Space Telescope

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The James Webb Space Telescope recently sent back images of never before seen parts of the universe. Astronomy professors at the University of Arizona, Dr. Marcia Rieke, Ph.D., and Dr. George Rieke, Ph.D., both have worked on the mission and provided their insight on these images.

Marcia is the principle investigator for one of the cameras on the JWST and in all of the images that got released, this camera played a role in all but one of those pictures, according to Marcia.

“We knew that galaxies tend to be lighter in this part of the infrared but that hadn’t been internalized, and were discovering that galaxies photo bomb almost every picture we take so to speak,” Marcia said.

The camera being used on the telescope can see up to ten times more light than our eyes can, this left George and Marcia both shocked when they saw the results.

“Everything we used previously with the same kind of sensitivity or even close to it had much poorer resolution,” George said. “The impact of the pictures just blew me away.”

Since the JWST launch in December of 2021, the telescope is now about 1 million miles away from the earth, according to Marcia.

“Its a special spot called the second Lagrange point which is a pseudo stable point from a gravity point of view,” Marcia said. “Which makes sending the data back and things much easier.”

The JWSP is allowing people to look back almost 200 million years after the big bang.

“Mother Nature will prevent us from getting any closer to the big bang until about 500 thousand years, but we don’t actually think we can get that close because at that point in time we don’t think any stars had formed yet,” Marcia said.

The camera is constantly taking pictures which NASA is planning to release to show the world to true beauty of the universe, according to George.

Dr. Marcia Rieke, Ph.D, Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona
Dr. George Rieke, Ph.D., Regents' Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona

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