The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to be launched into space in October 2021 with an Ariane 5 rocket from ESA. The launch will take place from the European 'spaceport' in French Guiana. (Illustration: ESA)

DTU researchers get observation time on new space telescope

Tuesday 27 Apr 21

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Georgios Magdis
Associate Professor
DTU Space

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Thomas Greve
Associate Professor
DTU Space
+45 45 25 96 88
Scientists at DTU Space and the Niels Bohr Institute have got plenty of observation time and will be among the first to use the James Webb Telescope, which is to be launched this fall.

Researchers in Denmark have been given over 2,000 hours of observation time on the James Webb Space Telescope in the first round of observations when the large telescope enters space and get into operation.

The many hours have been awarded to the Cosmic Dawn Center (DAWN), which is a collaboration between DTU Space and the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen on research into the early universe and the earliest formed and oldest galaxies.

"It is a unique and comprehensive program to be achieved in the five years that are the guaranteed lifetime of the James Webb Telescope. With the James Webb telescope, we get the opportunity to identify and explore thousands of both new and rare galaxies in the early universe," says Georgios Magdis, associate professor at DTU Space and participant in the DAWN center.

Thus, scientists from DTU Space and thier DAWN colleagues will be among the first to use the new international giant telescope in space. A total of 6,000 hours have been allocated in the first round of observation time. And with exactly 2,133 hours, the Danish DAWN center has achieved quite a large share. This has happened in competition with researchers in 40 other countries. Among other things DTU Space has also contributed to the telescope with a suspension system built in carbon fiber for one of the James Webb instruments.

"With the James Webb telescope, we get the opportunity to identify and explore thousands of both new and rare galaxies in the early universe"
Georgios Magdis, associate professor at DTU Space and participant in the DAWN center

Launch in October

The space telescope is scheduled to be sent into space in October this year from the European 'space port' at Kourou in French Guiana. It will be the largest telescope ever sent into space to explore the early universe. This opens up the possibility of making new discoveries.

The James Webb Space Telescope is an international project in cooperation between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. James Webb replaces the Hubble Telescope, which was sent into space in 1990. The new telescope has a mirror with a diameter of 6.5 meters and is thus about three times larger in diameter than the Hubble Telescope. The huge mirror makes it possible to capture light from very dim objects.

It will primarily observe light in the infrared range. As light travels through space over time, its wavelength becomes longer and hence more infrared.

Thus, light in the infrared region contains information about the very early universe. In this way, the telescope will help to gain new knowledge about the very first and very distant galaxies that were formed in the universe.

"In addition to the galaxies we expect to find, we are convinced that the most exciting discoveries, that a large survey like this will uncover, are ones we are not even yet able to imagine. That is what the history of astronomy has constantly demonstrated," says professor at the Niels Bohr Institute Sune Toft, who is director of the DAWN Center.

A panoramic image

The more than 2,000 observation hours are part of a program called ‘COSMOS-Webb’.

Here the scientists will examine some of the same areas of the universe that have been explored with the Hubble Space Telescope, but in greater detail. The telescope is expected to be able to obtain data on about half a million galaxies from a period when the universe was less than one billion years old. And one of the goals is to create an unprecedented panoramic image of these galaxies.

In addition to the COSMOS-Webb program, there are also a number of other projects linked to the new telescope, which involve researchers from the DAWN Center and DTU Space.

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