Dr John Mather, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has said that the telescope can look back in time by looking at things that are far away
The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed a lot about space in recent days with its first images and data. And it is just getting started with its exploration of the cosmos. NASA has informed that Dr John Mather, the observatory’s senior project scientist, has been working towards this milestone for more than 25 years. Taking to its official Twitter handle NASA tweeted, “Letting go of the past is not one of Dr. John Mather’s strong suits. In fact, he’s received a Nobel Prize for it. As @NASAWebb’s senior project scientist at @NASAGoddard, Mather is shifting the past into new focus. Learn more in Gravity Assist: https://go.nasa.gov/3zlescr.”
It can be known that before Webb, Dr Mather worked on a spacecraft that delivered a groundbreaking baby picture of the universe and offered the best evidence yet that the universe began with a rapid expansion we call the Bbig Bang. Speaking to Jim Green from Gravity Assist, NASA’s interplanetary talk show, here is what Dr John Mather said.
Giving a little background about COBE, Dr Mather said, “COBE was the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, and it was proposed back in 1974, to measure the Big Bang . So what’s it mean to measure the Big Bang? It means measure the cosmic microwave background radiation, which fills the entire universe now. And is evidence of the conditions at the very earliest moments, whatever they were. So task number one, see, is it the right color? Is it colorless in the sense of matching up a theoretical curve called a black body spectrum? And, and it is.”
“Number two, is it the same in every direction? And the answer is almost, but not quite. And that’s really important because we interpret the hot and cold spots that we saw on the map, to say those come from the big bang itself , whatever the big bang really was. And they made the universe not exactly smooth and not exactly uniform, and because of that we are here,” he added. He further informed that when they showed the map to the world, Stephen Hawking said “Well, that’s the most important scientific discovery of the century, if not of all time!”
On being asked what is happening in the early part of the universe that James Webb is going to be able to tease out? Dr Mather said, “Well, the Webb telescope does look back in time by looking at things that are far away. Light takes a long time to get here from there. So we can look back on not quite all the way towards the beginning. But if nature gave us an object to look at, then we should be able to see it as soon as 50 or 100 million years after the expansion started up we built the Webb telescope so that we could if they are there.”
He added, “By the way, when we’re talking about the size of the universe, the universe as a whole is probably infinite, so it doesn’t really have a size. The part that we can see is 13.7 or 13 point 8 billion light-years in dimension at the moment, or it was when the light was sent to us. So that’s a little tricky bit too, because of course, everything’s been moving and changing ever since the light came.”
“But in any rate, our job with the Webb telescope is looking as far back towards that moment to into what we call the Cosmic Dark Ages, to see the first luminous objects that grew out of that primordial material. So they could have been stars , they could have been galaxies that came together, before the stars grew, they could have been black holes, there even are stories about how black holes could grow out of that primordial material.It’s even logically possible that there are some left from the big bang itself. Although nobody has figured that one out, we’ve never seen a real signs of them. But what about that? So that’s sort of number one cosmological objective is to see back as far as possible in time,” he said.
You can read the full interview here.