AUSTIN—The Hubble Space Telescope has been an iconic part of American space exploration since the 1990s, but new engineering advances mean that a more powerful telescope is possible. NASA is already thinking ahead, and it's at South by Southwest Interactive to show off a full-sized model of the next generation telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope—named after NASA’s second administrator James Webb, who played a pivotal role in the Apollo program—is 100 times more powerful than Hubble, according to NASA scientists at South by Southwest. Its mirror will be seven times larger than Hubble’s with a sharper imaging and light-collecting process, so it can see faint objects that current space and ground telescopes can’t detect. The JWST will be able to see visible light and infrared light—Hubble can only pick up visible light, by comparison—and that will help us learn more about far away planets by analyzing their atmosphere.
This telescope is so powerful, it can capture images of the first stars in the universe that began to burn billions of years ago, so we can essentially look all the way back to the Big Bang. Plus, its atmospheric analysis can help scientists look for planets with a similar makeup to what’s found on Earth, which will help answer the age old question: “Are we alone?”
The James Webb Space Telescope has been in development since the mid 1990s, and should be completed by 2018.
This story, "NASA shows off next gen space telescope model at SXSW" was originally published by TechHive.