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James L. Webb Space Telescope set to launch on Friday, Dec. 24

james_webb_NASA.jpg
www.nasa.gov

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been all over the news lately. The massive, roughly 10-billion dollar space telescope has been jointly developed for decades by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Plans for it began forming as far back as the 1980s.

Once it reaches its final destination nearly a million miles from earth, the JWST will give astronomers a tool that greatly surpasses the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in orbit about 340 miles above the earth since 1990.

The JWST will allow for observation of some of the most distant events and objects in the universe, including the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric information on potentially habitable exoplanets — those are planets orbiting stars other than our sun.

Astronomers and space enthusiasts around the world are patiently — and hopefully — awaiting its launch from the northeastern coast of South America in French Guiana. It’s currently scheduled to leave earth at 7:20 a.m. EST on Dec. 24.

We get a bit of history, and a sense of what makes the JWST different and better, and the kinds of science it will be used for, with WMFE space reporter, Brendan Byrne, and Florida Gulf Coast University astronomy professor and Whitaker Eminent Scholar, Dr. Derek Buzasi.

We also talk with Dr. Buzasi about his latest research as part of an international team learning about Mimosa – it’s a massive blue star that’s part of the Southern Cross constellation. His work on this project uses what’s called Asteroseismology, which is the study of oscillations in stars.