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Beyond Hubble: NASA's Next Great Telescope (JWST)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be the most ambitious telescope the world has ever constructed. It’s the successor to Hubble, and 100x more powerful. The tennis-court sized observatory will answer some of humankind’s most puzzling questions. How did the Universe form? Is our Solar System unique? Are we alone? JWST will reveal nearby planets orbiting other Suns. It will also find distant galaxies billions of light years away. In a partnership with Microsoft's World Wide Telescope team and Northrop Grumman, we propose to bring the Universe to the public using Microsoft’s Kinect’s immersive user experience and Northrop Grumman’s full scale 40’x80’ JWST model. We’ll broadcast our panel live, and people around the world can interact directly with the all-stars turning our vision into a reality. By bringing the world’s greatest telescope down to Earth, we’ll showcase the science, images, and technologies that are changing our understanding of our place in the universe.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. What are the origins of life? For the first time in human existence, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will allow us to peer through the clouds of astronomical creation and answer: are there signs of life on other worlds? Are there oceans or other signs of life elsewhere in the cosmos? JWST spectroscopy can dissect starlight as it passes through an orbiting exoplanet's atmosphere. This spectral fingerprint could reveal water vapor, carbon, and methane on other planets.
  2. How did the first stars and galaxies form in our Universe? Telescopes are time machines. When we peer at extremely distant objects, we see them as they were billions of years ago. For the first time in history, JWST will capture baby pictures of the first stars and galaxies born in our universe.
  3. What technological advances are involved in JWST? To build JWST, our team invented new technology: a 21-foot segmented beryllium mirror, an array of microscopic doors opening on command to enable hundreds of galaxies to be measured simultaneously, and an ultra-cold refrigerator to capture faint objects. JWST turned these inventions into reality, and US companies are now benefiting. Participants will get up close with this marvel by visiting Northrop Grumman’s full-scale 40’x80’ JWST model.
  4. What will the universe look like through the eyes of JWST? NASA’s Great Observatories, such as Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer, have answered fundamental questions about the Universe’s origin and evolution, but have also yielded new mysteries. The top science questions demand a telescope that combines Hubble’s razor sharp vision with Spitzer’s infrared sensitivity, all at much higher power. JWST does this, and will therefore take the clearest and most complete pictures of the Universe to date.
  5. What does it feel like to fly at warp speed? Using the power of Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope (WWT) combined with the whole body experience of Microsoft’s Kinect, we will fly around our solar system, through our local Galaxy, and to the far reaches of the Universe. We will see the cosmos as JWST will see it - in the Infrared - and compare it to the view from Hubble and other telescopes. Participant will get a hands-on experience by using tablets like Microsoft’s Surface or Apple’s iPad.



Alberto Conti, Innovation Scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute

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