Major James Webb Space Telescope mission will map half a million early galaxies

It’s been practically 350 years since Sir Issac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” however the sentiment actually holds true at present.

Newton's wisdom is exemplified by a grand project called the Cosmic Evolution Survey, or COSMOS. COSMOS builds on the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope,

but NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will continue the observations during its first year of operations in a program called COSMOS-Webb.

James Webb Space Telescope

Founded in 2002, COSMOS originally utilized Hubble to image an area of the sky equivalent to 10 moons wide. The program later grew to include ground-based observatories working across multiple wavelengths of light.

Now, a second space-based observatory will join the endeavor. Over some 200 hours of observation time during its first year, Webb will image half a million early galaxies for the survey

Half  a million early galaxies

It will use its Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) to map a subset of Hubble's COSMOS field about three full moons in size. Webb will also map a separate, smaller area with its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

The goal of COSMOS-Webb is threefold: to examine the Epoch of Reionization and the very earliest stars; to search for early, fully evolved galaxies; and to study the evolution of the mysterious substance scientists call dark matter within galaxies' stellar content.

"Because we're covering such a large area, we can look at large-scale structures at the dawn of galaxy formation," Caitlin Casey, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-leader of the COSMOS-Webb program, said in the statement.

"We will also look for some of the rarest galaxies that existed early on, as well as map the large-scale dark matter distribution of galaxies out to very early times."

Galaxies and Dark matter

Of course, Webb still needs to become fully operational before COSMOS-Webb can proceed. The telescope is currently adjusting its mirror and calibrating its instruments; NASA expects it to begin science observations this summer.

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