“Journey to Mars will be difficult, but reaching the Moon will become more common in the coming years”

“Journey to Mars will be difficult, but reaching the Moon will become more common in the coming years”

After decades of development and a whopping budget of $10 billion, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched into space on December 25, 2021 by an international collaboration of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European ESA. As part of the summer studies at UPV/EHU, Ricardo Hueso, PhD in Physics, yesterday explored the milestones achieved in his first year at Miramar Palace and the bright future that awaits him.

– Is that much investment required?

– James E. Webb is, without a doubt, the most expensive and most important astronomical project in history. They wanted to send a telescope with technology not too far from Earth, which required five times more investment than initially planned. With this telescope, we can ensure that every observation is a new discovery because it has capabilities that no one else has ever had. JWST allows us to see the universe from a new perspective.

– What skills are you referring to?

– To capture the light emitted by the first stars and galaxies that lit up the universe. Not only that, these capabilities allow us to detect and understand in detail how stars and planets form, to characterize the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, and to determine whether some of these worlds have the characteristics of a habitable world.

– The first objective was to detect light from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. Has progress been made this way?

– Yes, from first observations. Indeed, the first image contained countless discoveries, while subsequent images allowed us to observe galaxies that formed when the universe was 300-400 million years old. It is a telescope through which constant discoveries have been made for more than two decades.

– I created.

– As the universe is in a constant state of expansion, galaxies are moving away from each other. It has changed the light of the stars. It is no longer visible light, but infrared, and as such it is a telescope optimized for observing in the infrared.


“The telescope allows us to trace how stars and planets form and determine whether any of them are habitable.”

– So the tracking power improves a lot compared to its predecessor, right?

– Compared to Hubble, which was sent into space in 1990, it is a telescope three times larger, which means it is capable of capturing ten times more light. With it we can observe very distant objects, dim and faint. That is, when we observe distant objects, we also observe the past. Thus, telescopes are time machines to understand how the universe came to be.

– Can you explain in a simple way how a star like the sun and its solar system form?

– Stars form in large clouds of gas and dust floating in galaxies that become dense enough to surround a region of slightly denser gravity. Gravitational forces begin to grow the object until it glows like a star. During that time some extraordinarily beautiful events occur.

– Does an expert scientist like you think there is life on other planets or is it just science fiction?

– Most of the scientific community thinks that life must be a common phenomenon in the universe, and therefore, we can find other habitable worlds. Life cannot have evolved only on our little blue planet. Today we know about 5,000 planets, many of which are similar in size to Earth, and in some of them we have found water, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane. Necessary to create life.

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– The results of this telescope are said to be spectacular. Do you share that opinion?

– Yes, through this telescope, it is going to radically change our view of who we are and what our role in this universe is in the next two decades.

– Traveling to Mars has become an ambitious and reasonable option. For example, is it possible in the near future to visit Venus, Jupiter, or some of those planets?

– Today we send probes, robots, communicate with it, but reaching these worlds is very complicated. Yes, we’re undoubtedly going to see humans on the moon in the next few years, including European astronauts, but the journey to Mars is much more difficult. The Moon is 400,000 kilometers from Earth and reaching it safely is a technical challenge. On the other hand, when Mars is closest to us, it is billions of kilometers away, and since gravity in space bends all paths so we cannot travel in a straight line, reaching Mars will take us out of line in 6 months. Space travel.


The telescope was “the most expensive and important astronomical project in history with an investment of 10,000 million by James E. Webb”

– Come on, don’t finish watching…

– a goal we think we can achieve, but I doubt we’ll be the generation to see it happen.

– If you had to highlight the most valuable or revolutionary development in astronomy in recent years, what would you choose?

– I would say that the most important discoveries are those that have yet to be made, not those that we have already made. We know that the universe is made up of the ordinary matter we see in the stars, and the stuff we can’t see that makes up the gravitational force called dark matter. But we haven’t found any theory that explains what this dark energy is that makes the universe expand so fast, and we don’t know what path we should follow to understand this fundamental ingredient of the universe.

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