The Hubble’s Cooler Younger Sibling

Somewhat of an actual time machine, the telescope is probably the most well-known instrument of the field of astronomy. While the object itself is not a foreign concept, knowledge about specific telescopes is less common. In fact, aside from the Hubble, I probably could not have named one before this semester. Much to my surprise, the successor to the Hubble is going to be launched next year! What’s even cooler is that NASA has a website on which the entire project is being chronicled. “The JWST [James Webb Space Telescope] will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide,” says the website. Why haven’t I been aware of this seemingly momentous project? Furthermore, why have I been oblivious to the many major telescopes launched within my lifetime? Space and our encounters with it used to be one of the greatest fascinations of the public. What happened? While the act of launching telescopes is not revolutionary science these days, you’d think I would at least hear reports or be told about these events. I understand that actual discoveries are the most exciting, it’s still pretty interesting that we, as a society, are continually increasing our ability to make such discoveries. Without telescopes and the corresponding opportunity to learn more about our universe, it will be much more difficult to accomplish more extensive human missions.

jwst-hst-primary-mirrors
This picture (also from the NASA website) shows the difference in mirror size between the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. The predecessor is certainly an improvement!
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One thought on “The Hubble’s Cooler Younger Sibling

  1. Even before the JWST launches, there are lots of other cool space telescopes that aren’t Hubble. I don’t think the Gaia mission by the ESA was in any popular news, but it is supposed to be able to 3D map our galaxy with parallx measurements down to the hundreds of microarcseconds, and better yet it is already operational!

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