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ASU researchers anxiously await launch of new Webb Telescope

The telescope is the successor to the Hubble Telescope and will give researchers a closer look at the rapidly expanding universe

TEMPE, Ariz. — On Dec. 24, a new $10 billion space telescope called the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched into the cosmos and a group of ASU researchers will be keeping a close eye.

“It’s fantastic and it’s 20 years in the making,” said Dr. Rolf Jansen, who is part of a six-person research team led by Dr. Rogier Windhorst from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. 

Windhorst, along with astronomers from around the world, helped develop the telescope and will be gathering data from it.

The James Webb Space Telescope is much bigger and can see more than its predecessor, the Hubble Telescope.

“Collects four to six times as much light and it can collect light from the very first galactic clumps of stars shining in the universe,” said Jansen.

While Hubble made new discoveries in a universe that’s rapidly expanding with black holes and thousands of never-before-seen planets, the Webb Telescope will give astronomers a deeper look.

“What we see in every major galaxy is there is a supermassive black hole at its core. Which must’ve started really early on and the James Webb Space Telescope will be the first telescope to actually get us access,” said Jansen.

“We’re trying to find the first objects, the galactic size objects that started shining in the universe,” said Jansen.

The Webb Telescope is so large it has to be folded like origami in the rocket, then unfolded in space, which has never been done before. 

Jansen said that there are 11 new technological breakthroughs at work for the telescope. 

The Webb Telescope will launch from French Guiana and will be sent millions of miles out.

“It’s going about four and a half times the distance of the moon. Always have the sunlight to power its instruments. It can always communicate with the Earth. Yet, the telescope never sees the glow of the Earth and the sun,” said Jansen.

Jansen doesn’t believe it will be able to discover new life on other planets but said that it can find things that could cause researchers to take a closer look.

Researchers anticipate receiving data from the telescope in July.

“So much going on. It’s an exciting time to be an astronomer,” said Jansen.

ASU is holding a watch party Friday morning but you have to register in advance.

The launch will also be live-streamed through NASA's website

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