Sac State Planetarium partners with NASA to show first deep space images from James Webb Telescope

Kyle Watters, Sac State physics professor and director of the planetarium, says he looks forward to sharing the findings of the James Webb Telescope with students and the public. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

One of astronomy’s most important storytelling tools will share its first visual tales with the world next week, and the Sac State Planetarium will play an important role in showcasing this next chapter in Earth exploration. deep space to local audiences.

The Planetarium will host a free open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12 to show the first images of deep space captured by the James Webb Telescope, an instrument capable of peering into the origins of the universe. The public is welcome.

Participation does not require a ticket or registration, but participants will need to book secure parking.

NASA is teaming up with Sac State and other institutions across the country to release new images from the telescope, which orbits the sun a million miles from Earth, physics professor Kyle Watters said. , director of the planetarium.

At the Planetarium, visitors can view the highly anticipated images “stuck on our massive 2,500 square foot dome,” Watters said. Astronomers will be on hand to describe the images and answer questions.

Sac State plans to schedule more viewings, possibly starting in August, Watters said.

The Webb Telescope, which launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket on Christmas Day 2021, features a gold-coated mirror spanning more than 21 feet. NASA said the telescope’s groundbreaking technology will study every phase of cosmic history by collecting light from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. Its infrared range allows it to see through dust and gas, giving scientists the ability to explore unprecedented territory to help them understand the origins of the universe.

“Webb will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before,” NASA’s website says. “Webb will look back to when the very first stars and galaxies formed,” more than 13 billion years ago. It will also be a powerful tool for studying planets and other bodies in our solar system, according to the agency.

This work is ongoing and the new images will show what the telescope has seen so far.

NASA this week released a list of cosmic objects that will be revealed on Tuesday. They include galaxies, nebulae and a giant planet outside our solar system known as WASP-96b, which lies 1,150 light years from Earth.

The information Webb collects could offer “the first-ever evidence of signs of life elsewhere,” Watters said.

“This incredibly sensitive instrument can pick up tiny little changes in another star’s light that are caused by the atmosphere of a planet orbiting that star,” he said. “The composition of this atmosphere could reveal signs of life. We’ve never really been able to do this very well before.

Scientists around the world eagerly await the release of Webb’s images, and the telescope will continue to provide information for perhaps the next two decades. Watters said he looks forward to sharing his findings with his students and the public.

“I’m so excited to be an astronomy teacher right now,” he said. “Each year we can talk about new images and discoveries coming from Webb.”

About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy birdwatching from their perch next to the living room window.

Arline J. Mercier