NASA Says James Webb Space Telescope Science Targets Include Icy Moons, Galaxy Clusters, Distant Worlds


The most powerful space telescope designed and built by humans is scheduled to launch October 2018, and its mission handlers announced some of its science targets Thursday. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which succeeds and complements the Hubble Space Telescope, will look at a large number of things in the universe, including icy moons, distant exoplanets and galaxy clusters.
The targets announced by JWST’s mission handlers on NASA’s website are part of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), a program that provides dedicated observation time to scientists who worked on designing and building the four instruments onboard the telescope.

“From the very first galaxies after the Big Bang, to searching for chemical fingerprints of life on Enceladus, Europa, and exoplanets like TRAPPIST-1e, Webb will be looking at some incredible things in our universe. With over 2100 initial observations planned, there is no limit to what we might discover with this incredible telescope,” Eric Smith, James Webb Space Telescope Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

NASA technicians lift the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane to move it inside a clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Photo: NASA/Desiree Stover

The initial GTO projects cover a broad spectrum, addressing all the science areas that Webb is meant to explore. These include exploration of the first light after Big Bang, the formation of distant galaxies, birth of stars and planets, and alien worlds of exoplanets. Somewhat closer home, GTOs also cover the four outer planets of our solar system and the Kuiper Belt.

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