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A tale of two telescopes

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The James Webb Space Telescope

Launched in 2021, the Webb Space Telescope is capturing images of our cosmic past and exploring the atmospheres of planets outside our own solar system.

Since then, scientists are seeing deeper into our cosmic past than ever before and peering into the atmospheres of planets that exist outside our own solar system.

JWST Telescope Manager and Optics Lead, Lee Feinberg, said JWST's discoveries while exploring deep into the universe will continue as JWST evolves.

"I think the main objective and what really drove the design was looking at the early universe, and I think JWST is really doing what we had hoped, in terms of studying the early universe," Feinberg said. "And it's still very early in that process. But we're already, you know, have found many things that were surprising. And so, I think it's very exciting."

In comparison to Hubble, JWST is quite large in size. Feinberg said the size of JWST contributes to the clear images it captures deep within our universe.

"It actually turns out that the resolution of a telescope, how finely it can see details, is directly related to how large it is," Feinberg said. "It's the wavelength divided by the diameter of the telescope. So being this large makes a huge difference."

Hubble telescope

Launch in 1990, the Hubble space telescope has been capturing incredible images of our universe over the course of its three decades in orbit.

The spacecraft continues to help astronomers understand our place in the universe and is assisting other space missions, too.

Jennifer Wiseman, Senior Project Scientist on Hubble at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said Hubble helping other missions like JWST, is crucial for discovery.

"We have now this complimentary pair of great observatories that are observing things and studying things in deep space much better in a complementary way, than either could on their own," Wiseman said.

The Hubble Telescope in orbit. Photo: NASA
The Hubble Telescope in orbit. Photo: NASA

With the new year, Wiseman said she is looking forward to Hubble investigating a peculiar pattern on our neighboring planet.

"Even though Neptune is way out in the far solar system, something that the sun is doing when it's very active, is reaching Neptune, and with a tiny bit of a time delay that you would expect it's stirring up cloud formation in Neptune," Wiseman said. "And we can see that with Hubble. And then as the solar cycle subsides, then those clouds subside. So now is the task is for planetary scientists to figure out what exactly is inciting the, the cloud formation in Neptune."

Marian is a multimedia journalist at WMFE 90.7 working as a reporter and producer for the 'Are We There Yet?' space podcast.
Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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