The universe is so big that humanity may never discover all of its secrets, but with the James Webb Space Telescope, we are closer than ever to discovering just a few more. This space telescope, which has a launch date of 2019, is the successor to the Hubble. The latter telescope has helped us glimpse the universe for almost 30 years.
What makes the Webb version so special? For starters, it can see farther into deep space. The $8.8 billion Webb Telescope will see, perhaps, billions of years into the past in order to study the formation of the first galaxies in our universe.
NASA has many plans for the Webb. Not only will the telescope let scientists view some of the oldest objects in space, it could also potentially lead us to life on other planets and moons. We may even find liquid water on these bodies.
The Webb Telescope Will See Farther Than The Hubble Telescope
For years, the Hubble Telescope helped humans glimpse the universe. But the James Webb Telescope has better vision capabilities. NASA explains that the Webb will present images with the same sharpness and resolution as the Hubble but from a much farther distance.
The Hubble can only see light that ranges from about 0.2 to 2.4 microns, so it can't see anything past near-infrared light. The Webb completely blows away its predecessor.
The Webb Telescope Might Allow Scientists To See The Formation Of The First Galaxies
The James Webb Telescope's ability to see near-infrared and mid-infrared light will allow it to view objects many light years away. In fact, the telescope can act as a sort of time machine into the past since it will be able to see events that happened billions of years ago. Additionally, the telescope will see objects previously obscured by the dense dust clouds. NASA reports:
"Star and planet formation in the local universe take place in the centers of dense, dusty clouds, obscured from our eyes at normal visible wavelengths. Near-infrared light, with its longer wavelength, is less hindered by the small dust particles, allowing near-infrared light to escape from the dust clouds. By observing the emitted near-infrared light we can penetrate the dust and see the processes leading to star and planet formation."
The Webb Telescope Will Look For Signs Of Life On Europa And Enceladus
The James Webb Telescope will also study Jupiter's moon, Europa, and Saturn's moon, Enceladus. The telescope will attempt to detect whether there's liquid water underneath the moons' icy surfaces. Additionally, it is theorized that subsurface geysers on those moons could provide a source of heat and nutrients for life-forms there.
Scientists believe that if the geysers do provide heat, the telescope will be able to detect the heat through the infrared light emitted from the moons. One writer mentioned:
"Researchers are hoping that Webb can help to identify regions on the surfaces of these moons where geologic activity, such as plume [geyser] eruptions, are taking place."
The Webb Telescope Might Find Water On Exoplanets
The James Webb Telescope could also find water on exoplanets and lead the way to finding other habitable planets beyond our solar system. All About Space magazine notes:
"One of the JWST’s most notable abilities is that it will be able to detect planets around nearby stars by measuring infrared radiation, and it will even be able to measure the atmospheres of exoplanets by studying the starlight that passes through. By doing this it will be able to determine if an exoplanet has liquid water on its surface."