Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine explores the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The launch date is scheduled for December 22. This will be the most advanced technologically engineered telescope ever designed, at least 10 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. Joining us is Michael Maseda, an Assistant Professor in astronomy at UW-Madison.
Of course, the most pronounced piece of equipment is the telescope, which is composed of a mirror assembly. The JWST has the biggest one yet, 21 feet across, which makes it easier to see faint light from further away. But that is pretty big to be confined inside a capsule on a journey to its final destination. So this mirror will be folded into 18 hexagons, and then unfold during deployment. Also, the JWST will capture light mostly from the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Michael says this will give us a chance to see things on a different scale than Hubble. And one of the instruments on the JWST that Michael was involved with could capture images that falls right into his area of study, the formation and evolution of galaxies.
Image Courtesy: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez via Flickr (artist conception)