Planetarium scientist excited about what’s next as Webb Telescope peers into deep space

ST. LOUIS — NASA has released images taken by the most powerful space telescope of all time, the James Webb Space Telescope. These images are mesmerizingly beautiful, and scientists around the world are excited about what these new images from deep space will mean for the future of space exploration.

“There’s so much in the universe that there’s always something new to learn. That’s what I love about it,” said astrophysicist Will Snyder, director of the McDonnell Planetarium at the St. Louis Science Center.

Recently, there are many new things to learn from the Webb Space Telescope. Snyder said the scientific community has been waiting for images like these for decades.

“What I really like about the images they picked today is that they give a good look at what this telescope will be capable of,” Snyder said. “We could see galaxies, nebulae, atmospheres of planets, and we could look back almost to the very beginning of the universe as we think of it.”

Snyder explains that although the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized the way we view the universe, it primarily uses visible light. Webb uses the infrared spectrum to see things in greater detail than ever before.

“The fact that we can see infrared light coming from different stars, areas around black holes and merged galaxies really gives us a much more complete picture than what we can see with visible light alone.”

Webb is the largest and most powerful space telescope in the world. It was launched in December 2021 and reached its vantage point a million miles from Earth in January 2022. Scientists said these images and those to follow will change our understanding of the universe.

“It allows us to start answering questions that, before, we didn’t even know how to ask,” Snyder said. “With each of these images coming back, we are the first to get these looks at things that no one has ever seen before. I think it’s a really amazing concept that, without ever leaving Earth, we’re all exploring space together.

If you have any questions about what you see in these Webb Telescope images, the Planetarium is a great resource. Images from the James Webb Space Telescope will be part of the shows at the St. Louis Science Center. On Saturday, July 16, 2022, they will have NASA Solar System Ambassadors on hand to answer people’s questions.

Arline J. Mercier