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WAYLAND – As the winter’s first snowfall got underway, Kathryn Flanagan, astronomer emerita at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), gave a riveting presentation about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to a spellbound audience of 100+ people at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, on Sunday, December 11.

Flanagan, former mission head of James Webb Space Telescope and former deputy director of STScI, explained how the telescope uses infrared sensitivity to look at distant galaxies and peer into dusty environments, seeing the first galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Floating about a million miles from Earth, the telescope explores regions where stars and planets form, and traces how galaxies have evolved over time.

Flanagan commented, “Astronomers have been racing to analyze the latest JWST observations and publish findings with breathtaking speed. This mission is an international collaboration and has captured the imagination of people all over the world. It is especially fitting that JWST data are available for anyone to access.  In fact, citizen scientists are already contributing in a big way, creating stunning images from the publicly available data. It’s a very democratic process that is transforming our understanding of the universe.”

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Before James Webb Space Telescope, optics used in space telescopes were limited in size since they needed to fit into rockets. James Webb Space Telescope embraced an innovative design that segmented the mirrors, which were folded for launch and unfolded in space, dramatically improving the sensitivity, and providing exquisite imaging.

As the largest astrophysics mission in NASA’s history,James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021, and released its first science images and data sets in July. Since then, James Webb Space Telescope continues to break its own records by releasing new images of stars, galaxies, and exoplanets deeper and further back in time

Jill Abend, a congregant at Temple Shir Tikva, noted, ““I’m so glad that Temple Shir Tikva was able to bring Flanagan to speak to our community.  We really love being able to learn together.”

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Tarantula Nebula

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In full transparency, the photos and press release were submitted to SOURCE media for publication.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.