Webb on Webb: How JWST peers back in time at the earliest stages of the Universe

What did the first galaxies and stars look like? How have they evolved over time? Does life exist somewhere else out there in the great inky blackness of the universe? How can astronomers possibly hope to see through the vast amounts of gas and dust to uncover nascent stars nestled in their cloudy nurseries?

In Cosmos Magazine #96, Swinburne University postdoctoral researcher, Sarah Webb, explains how astronomers are exploring these questions, uncovering the deepest mysteries of the universe and space and time.

Gold mirrors on james webb space telescope
Golden mirrors on JWST. Credit: NASA/Desiree Stover

The appropriately named Webb, walks us through the most powerful time machine we’ve ever built, showing us how the golden mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) allow it to peer through the space dense with gas and dust and look at (but not touch!) the very early days of our universe.

Be dazzled by beautiful, swirling galaxies and cliffs of dust hiding bright new-born stars as Webb explains the science behind her favourite JWST images, including the Southern Ring Nebula, spiral galaxy NGC 628 and the Cartwheel galaxy.

Comparing the Hubble Deep Field with the JWST First Deep Field, we can see just how far technology, engineering and science have come, with JWST seeing further and more clearly than any instrument before it.

Australia’s research contribution is highlighted, as Webb discusses some of the incredible science being done by astronomers right here in Australia – work which demonstrates JWST’s unbelievable potential to contribute to an enormous number of fields such as finding the most distant galaxy, early galaxy birth and evolution, dead stars, planets and asteroids, and of course looking for the most promising exoplanetary candidates for signs of life elsewhere in the Universe.

Read more: The James Webb Space Telescope data is a treasure trove of material: what are we hoping to find?

Cosmos Magazine #96 is available now at all good newsagents or Subscribe at comosmagazine.com and save up to $35.

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