How the US Government Chose to Ruin the James Webb Space Telescope, and Blamed NASA
|10:17:39 PM, Thursday, September 08, 2011|
""A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else." -John Burroughs
The greatest tool for astronomers of the past 20 years has, without a doubt, been the Hubble Space Telescope.
Since its launch in 1990, it's no stretch to say more scientific knowledge has come out of this telescope than out of any instrument in history. It's taught us what the expansion rate of the Universe is, that the expansion is accelerating, has helped us understand how stars are born, directly imaged the first planets outside of our Solar System, and discovered thousands of supernovae from objects many billions of light years away, among many other things.
And, oh yes, it's taken glorious images of the most distant galaxies ever seen, as this image below shows.
This is just one tenth of the image known as the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, taken over the equivalent of twelve days of pointing this ultra-powerful telescope at a blank area of the sky. Over 10,000 new galaxies were imaged in that image alone, which covers just one-thirtieth of a square degree. It's no exaggeration to say that Hubble has changed our view of the Universe.
But Hubble isn't the end of astronomy and astrophysics; there's a whole lot more Universe out there simply begging to be understood. How did the first stars form? What do the earliest galaxies look like? When did the first galaxy clusters show up? And, needless to say, so much more. To get there, we need a significantly larger telescope, in space, capable of viewing wavelengths of light far longer than the ones Hubble is sensitive to. And that's just what the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- with seven times Hubble's light-gathering power -- promises to be..."