Sunday , August 1 2021

The first scientific programs for the general observer of the James Webb Space Telescope have been selected

Impression of James Telb, a space telescope artist

James Webb’s Space Telescope is a space observatory that sees the universe deeper than ever before. It is designed to answer questions about the universe and conduct breakthrough research in all fields of astronomy. Webb observes the first galaxies in the universe, reveals the birth of stars and planets, and searches for exoplanets with life potential. Closer to home, Webb also looks at our own solar system in a new light. Credit: ESA / ATG media lab

Scientific observations of the general observer NASA/ ESA / CSA James Webb’s Space Telescopethe first year of operation has been selected. Proposals from ESA Member States account for 33% of the total number of proposals selected and 30% of the telescope time available on the Web.

The NASA / ESA / CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s leading space science observatory when launched later this year. Webb solves the mysteries of our solar system, looks at distant worlds around other stars, and explores the mysterious structures and origins of our universe. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Webb delegation officials have announced the selection of general observer programs for the first year of the telescope, known as the 1st cycle. These special programs provide the world’s astronomical community with the first extensive opportunity to explore scientific objects with Webb. The selected proposals cover a wide range of disciplines and help fulfill ESA’s comprehensive mission to promote understanding of the universe and our place in it.

Webb’s observer time is very competitive. As a result, the proposal selection process is rigorous. Members of the astronomical community were appointed to various panels dealing with a broad scientific topic. Of these, 52 were ESA Member States. The panels met in practice COVID-19 pandemic, over three weeks, and members spent countless hours reading and evaluating proposals.

1172 proposals were received before the deadline. Researchers from 44 countries searched for part of the available 6,000 observation hours. This represents about two-thirds of the total Cycle 1 observation time, the rest of which is allocated to the Early Release Science and Guaranteed Time (GTO) programs. Of the 266 observation proposals selected, 33% are ESA Member States, corresponding to 30% of Webb’s available telescope time during the first period. In addition, 41% of the selected proposals primarily use Webb’s NIRSpec instrument and 28% primarily use the MIRI instrument.

“We are celebrating a very successful partnership between the European Space Agency and our colleagues at NASA and CSA. We look forward to the beautiful images and spectra and amazing discoveries Webb will make during this first year of observation,” said Günther Hasinger, ESA’s Director of Science.

“At ESA, we are excited to see the great commitment and great success of the European astronomical community in gaining valuable observation time for this extraordinary mission, the James Webb Space Telescope,” said Antonella Nota, Head of the ESA Space Telescope Office. Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA.

ESA supplied two instruments for the James Webb Space Telescope operation. This includes the entire NIRSpec device, a near-infrared spectrograph that enables large-scale spectroscopic studies of astronomical objects such as stars or distant galaxies. ESA also has a 50 percent stake in the MIRI instrument, which is the only telescopic instrument capable of operating at mid-infrared wavelengths. The telescope fires an Ariane 5 rocket from the European space gate in French Guiana.

A complete list of General Observer programs can be found here.

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