It was a triumphant year for the James Webb Space Telescope. From a flawless launch on Christmas Day 2021, through a perfectly executed roll-out sequence, to the first images that took everyone’s breath away, the $10 billion space observatory has exceeded expectations. at every step – so much so that critics quickly forgot the years of delays and massive cost overruns. Today, two of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world cement the James Webb Space Telescope position as “science stuff of the year”.
The editors of the journal Science selected the James Webb Space Telescope from a pool of applicants, which also included DART, NASA’s asteroid deflection missionas the Science Breakthrough of 2022. Additionally, Science competitor Nature included Webb Operations Project Scientist Jane Rigby among its “10 People Who Helped Shape Science Stories (opens in a new tab)from 2022. (Earlier this year, Time Magazine dubbed (opens in a new tab) the telescope one of the best inventions of the year.)
In a statement (opens in a new tab) accompanying the announcement, Science praised Webb for allowing researchers to reveal the universe‘s “unfathomable past in stunning and unprecedented detail”.
Gallery: The first photos from the James Webb Space Telescope
“In the days that followed [the telescope] online in late June 2022, researchers began discovering thousands of new galaxies that are more distant and older than any previously documented – some possibly more than 150 million years older than the oldest identified by Hubble” , wrote Science. “Additionally, the telescope is able to collect enough light from astronomical objects – ranging from infant stars to exoplanets – to reveal what they are made of and how they move through space. These data have already begun to reveal in great detail the atmospheric composition of planets hundreds of light-years from Earth, offering clues to their ability to potentially support life as we know it.”
Since release of his first images In mid-July, Webb delivered a steady stream of awe-inspiring views of the universe that continued to smash the internet. The telescope reimagined some of the famous objects previously photographed by its predecessor, the The Hubble Space Telescopeand revealed mind-boggling details that were previously hidden.
Orbiting the so-called Lagrange point 2, a location some 900,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth Far from Sun, Webb is carefully shielded from the glare of the sun. This shielding is crucial to the telescope’s ability to detect the faintest infrared signal, essentially heat, coming from deep within the universe and from within thick clouds of cosmic dust that obscure the view of optical telescopes. , such as Hubble.
Webb’s sensitive instruments, designed to detect early galaxies that formed in the universe in the first hundreds of millions of years after the big Bang, have consistently exceeded expectations. Less than six months after the first images were released, astronomers have been able to confirm that the observatory has seen more than 13.4 billion objects Light years far away, those that existed when the universe was only 350 million years old. Webb also revealed bursts of star formation inside the cloud. Pillars of Creationand detected traces of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanetamong many other discoveries.
Other projects Science considered for the accolade included the discovery of a giant microbe, nearly 5,000 bacterial cells larger than most known bacterial cells, the development of a multi-year variety of rice, and a analysis of how medieval plague epidemics affected the DNA of Europeans.
NASA’s DART mission, which slammed into a small asteroid called Dimorphos in September to alter its orbit, was also on the list.