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Chronicles of the Unknown: Launch Preparation for JWST

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Virginia Air & Space Center

600 Settlers Landing Road

Hampton, VA 23669

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About the Speaker:

Dr. Stefanie Milam is a Planetary Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and serves as the James Webb Space Telescope Deputy Project Scientist for Planetary Science. Her role on the project is to help establish the next generation space telescope as a planetary science resource, engaged the community in future observations and preparations, and assisted the project to ensure the capabilities of the observatory are suitable for solar system observations.

About the Talk:

In Spring 2019, futuristic innovation will take the next step into space exploration and journey. The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb), an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope but with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity, will launch into space on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

JWST will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Webb was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST), but was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb. Innovative technologies like a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch, a tennis court sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has programmable microshutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. Webb also has a cryocooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors of another instrument (MIRI) to a very cold 7 K so they can work.

JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch.

Post Talk:

We will host an informal social with a cash bar and hors d'oeuvres.

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Virginia Air & Space Center

600 Settlers Landing Road

Hampton, VA 23669

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