James Webb Telescope Images Deliver New Look at Universe, Potential for Life in the CosmosJuly 13, 20222 min read
On July 12, NASA unveiled its long-awaited first images from the James Webb Telescope, a cutting-edge tool sent to space 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” 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 the Webb Telescope’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,” 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 the Webb Telescope. 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 Webb Telescope to search for spectroscopic evidence of life,” Guinan said. “Webb is capable of answering these questions, whether these Earth-sized planets may be suitable for harboring complex life, possibly intelligent life.”
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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.