James Webb Space Telescope Images Deliver New Look at Universe, Potential for Life in the Cosmos

James Webb Space Telescope Images Deliver New Look at Universe, Potential for Life in the Cosmos

July 13, 20222 min read

On July 12, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled its long-awaited first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, a cutting-edge tool sent out with the mission of furthering our understanding of the universe. The telescope delivered on its promise, depicting the cosmos more clearly than we’ve ever seen.

Among the many in awe was Villanova astronomy and astrophysics professor Ed Guinan, PhD, who’s familiar with extraterrestrial discovery. In 1968, Guinan helped observe evidence of Neptune’s ring system and has been involved in research beyond our planet for over 50 years.

“The first few photos are beautiful, showing highly detailed images of stars, galaxies, nebulae and gravitational lensed distant galaxies” Dr. Guinan said. “Some of the oldest galaxies formed as far back as 13-to-13.5 billion years, right after the Big Bang.”

The latest images come almost seven months after Webb’s launch in December. A series of steps needed to be completed for the mission to be successful.

“Many things could’ve gone wrong, and if something failed, it would be too far away to fix,” Dr. Guinan said.

One of the photos featured a signature of water in the atmosphere of a distant sun-like star, showing the unique capabilities of Webb. Dr. Guinan, along with assistant astrophysics and planetary science professor Scott Engle, PhD, have been researching the potential habitability of Earth-sized exoplanets over the last decade, and he believes this telescope may be able to help bring clarity to finding life outside of our planet.

“Several of these potentially habitable exoplanet systems are planned to be observed with the telescope to search for spectroscopic evidence of life,” Dr. Guinan said. “Webb is capable of answering these questions, whether these Earth-sized planets may be suitable for harboring complex life, possibly intelligent life.”

Connect with:
  • Edward Guinan, PhD
    Edward Guinan, PhD Professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

    Edward Guinan, PhD, an expert in astronomy and space science research explores the sun, stars, planets, extraterrestrial life potential.

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