[Editorial Analysis] How Webb Telescope will seek to unlock universe’s secrets

Mains Paper 3: Science and Tech
Prelims level: James Webb Space Telescope
Mains level: Awareness in the field of Science and Technology

Context:

• James Webb Space Telescope will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen — dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

• Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for evidence of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets — celestial bodies orbiting distant stars — and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan. The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies.

Functions of JWST:

• Webb will gaze into the epoch when the very first stars and galaxies formed, over 13.5 billion years ago.

• Ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched or “redshifted” by the universe’s continual expansion and arrives today as infrared light. Webb is designed to see this infrared light with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity.

• Webb will be a powerful tool for studying the nearby universe.

• Scientists will use Webb to study planets and other bodies in our solar system to determine their origin and evolution and compare them with exoplanets, planets that orbit other stars.

• Webb will also observe exoplanets located in their stars’ habitable zones, the regions where a planet could harbor liquid water on its surface, and can determine if and where signatures of habitability may be present.

• Using a technique called transmission spectroscopy, the observatory will examine starlight filtered through planetary atmospheres to learn about their chemical compositions.

How its significant in advancement of space research?

• Powerful space telescopes, like JWST or the Hubble Telescope, are often called time-machines because of their ability to view very faraway objects. The light coming from those objects, stars or galaxies, which is captured by these telescopes, began its journey millions of years earlier. Essentially, what these telescopes see are images of these stars or galaxies as they were millions of years ago. The more distant the planet or star, the farther back in time are the telescopes able to see.

• Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to transform scientists’ understanding of the universe and our place in it.

• JWST is much more powerful and has the ability to look in the infrared spectrum, which will allow it to peer through much deeper into the universe, and see through obstructions such as gas clouds.

• As electromagnetic waves travel for long distances, they lose energy, resulting in an increase in their wavelength. An ultraviolet wave, for example, can slowly move into the visible light spectrum and the infrared spectrum, and further weaken to microwaves or radio waves, as it loses energy. Hubble was designed to look mainly into the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. JWST is primarily an infrared telescope, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born, the first of its kind.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the millets, consider the following statements:

1. NITI Aayog recently signed a Statement of Intent with United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to focus on mainstreaming of millets.

2. Government of India observed 2018 as a year of millets to encourage and promote the millet production.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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