How the James Webb Telescope Uses Radio Waves

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Technology has come a very long way, and today, things that were once thought impossible have become much easier to pull off. One event that is generating a lot of media attention and interest is the James Webb Telescope, which was launched on Christmas Day, December the 25th, from Earth for a journey to orbit.

It’s been a long time we’ve seen a space project generate so much interest, and this casts our mind back to the One Earth New Horizons Project that was crowdfunded and launched a few years ago.

The goal of the James Webb Telescope or JWST is set to replace the Hubble Telescope that has served humanity for years now. In its place, James Webb will take pictures and transmit the images back to Earth for the next three decades, which is actually a very long time.

According to experts, the telescope will use infrared sensors technology to explore distant parts of the sky that the Hubble Telescope couldn’t reach. This information will then be used by space experts to explore the solar plains.

In this article, we want to review how the James Webb Telescope will use radio waves and other essential components to function.

The Development of the James Webb Telescope

Over the years, different systems and devices have been designed to transmit information from one point to the next. We’ve had the arc gap system and maidenhead locator systems that worked so well, but these and other systems are nothing compared to the new JWST and what it is capable of. This new telescope is a joint project between three international agencies.

  • NASA
  • Canadian Space Agency
  • European Space Agency

The project has a cost estimate of $10 billion, and a significant part of that budget has been spent already. The purpose of the telescope is to journey to orbit so as to help researchers study the formation of the Universe and the first stars.

James Webb Telescope was designed to replace the hugely successful Hubble Space Telescope, which NASA has used for years. As for its name, it got that from the famous architect of the Apollo Mission, James Webb.

Once it reaches orbit, JWST will become operational by spreading its chrysalis like a butterfly.

Importance of having a Space Telescope

Many will wonder why it is so important to have a telescope in space that will cost billions of dollars. Well, the truth is, with space and orbit still largely unlivable despite significant technological advancement over the last fifty years, researchers still have to rely on images to help with their study.

So high-quality images are necessary, and only high-grade telescopes can operate in orbit and still transmit high-quality images back to Earth.

Electromagnetic Waves

When viewed with visible light here on Earth, the air is transparent so we can see through, but that is not the case when it comes to the air in outer space. This is because the light in and of itself is an electromagnetic wave with different wavelengths, and the visible eye can only see a very limited range of not more than 700 nanometers.

Furthermore, the brain interprets the light we see differently. Short wavelengths are interpreted as violet, while longer ones are interested as red by the human brain.

So air is transparent because of the presence of light, but for other wavelengths that we can see without the human eye, the air is not so transparent. Also, for ground-based telescopes that use infrared technology, the images that will be produced will be largely unclear because that will be an attempt to look at the skies through clouds which will distort the images produced

Think of how QRN background noises can affect the transmission quality of ground-based communication systems and other noise sources? The same is the case with telescopes that operate from the ground.

So the workaround is to position a telescope in space where there is no air to distort the view, and such an equipment has to be a piece of highly efficient equipment that will function effectively after making the over 900,000 miles journey to space.

Why Infrared Light is so important for the JWST to function

This Telescope uses two infrared light ranges; mid-infrared and near-infrared. The mid-infrared range works with heat to produce light, and light often depends on temperature because the hotter the temperature, the shorter the wavelength. And short-wavelength light is easier to feel than see.

As for the near-range infrared light, this type is similar to the red light that the human eye can see. This one uses the same wavelength that your Television remote control uses to function.

Now, how does the camera of the James Webb Telescope use infrared waves? To give you a clear answer, let’s use a practical example.

When you switch on a hot plate or stove and put your hand very close to the burner, you will immediately feel a burning sensation because of the heat coming from the burner even though you can’t see it. This is because it produces infrared light. You can’t see it, but you know it is there.

But the infrared waves technology of the JWST is not limited to the human eye. Rather, the telescope can see infrared light that the normal human eye cannot see.

The Doppler Effect comes into play

The main reason why the JWST uses infrared light is because of the Doppler Effect. In fact, signals and waves experts will tell you that Doppler influences the JWST more than anything else.

The Doppler effect is characterized by a decrease or increases in the frequency of light, skins, or other electromagnetic waves as the source of the waves moves towards it away. The change in positive and directional movement causes notable changes in the pitch frequency. In astronomy, this is a common phenomenon, one of which is a redshift.

The light we see in space is affected by Doppler, but the speed of movement is so fast the human eye cannot spot it because it moves at 3x108m per second. And consequently, all the galaxies in space are moving farther away from Earth, so the light we see appears to be longer wavelengths. These changes in light are what we call redshift. So to spot redshift, a stronger and high-tech telescope is needed.

To get a clear view

Another reason why the JWST uses infrared is to get a clearer view of objects. We do know that getting clear images in space is difficult because of the dust and gas that pervades space. But with infrared sensor telescopes, images can be viewed clearly amidst all the obstructions.

How will the James Webb Telescope work?

The JWST will use infrared light that the human eye cannot see to study the cosmos. It has a total of four scientific instruments, which it uses to capture this light to help better it see distant objects through all the gas and dust.

You may not know, but there are so many waves and light around us, such as

  • Microwaves
  • X-rays
  • Radio waves
  • Infrared

There are waves that the human eye cannot see, but the JWST is equipped to capture them. And if you must know, certain objects in space become much visible under infrared light and over the years, different gadgets and instruments have been designed by engineers to help them capture these objects for study.

There have been instruments for tracking dwarf stars in the red planet, black holes, exoplanets and the JWST is just one of them in a long list of scientific research tools.

How The James Webb Telescope Uses Radio Waves

The JWST is the brainchild of years of research and development by space engineers spanning more than 20 years of hard work. These effects were made to enable the telescope to meet its objectives. Some of its components include

Sunshield: The telescope has a shield to protect itself from the heatwave coming from the sun. This shield is as large as a tennis court and has a cooking system like a refrigerator to keep the shield cool.

Golden Mirror: The 6.5 meters wide golden mirror is the largest space mirror ever built. This motor has 18 hexagonal gold-plated beryllium segments, which can be adjusted.

Ariane 5 Rocket: The telescope is very large and cannot be transported in static form, so it was designed to have a foldable structure that will take up to 2 weeks to unfold completely. An Ariane Rocket was used to transport it to space

Key instruments: The JWST uses certain key instruments like the NIRCam by NASA, NIRSpec by the ESA, NIRISS by Canada and the MIRI by ESA/NASA.

Besides all the key instruments assembled on the telescope, it will rely on high-frequency radio transmitters. These large radio antennas will be installed in various locations across the globe.

Using radio waves, these antennas will receive signals from the JWST and transmit the same to the Webb Science and Operation Center of the Space Telescope Science Institute domiciled in Baltimore, USA.

Looking back in time

Some analysts claim that the James Webb Telescope will function as a piece of equipment that can look back in time because it uses light. And from what we know, light can travel really fast around the earth within seconds, so when observing objects in the cosmos, we need to factor in the light around those objects.

For instance, the light from the Alpha Centauri Star System can take as long as 4 years or more to even reach Earth. This means that the light you see when you look at the sky takes about 4 years or more to reach Earth so what you are seeing is light produced several years prior.

Everything we see from the cosmos is rooted in the past, including the light that is tea slotted back to earth. While the moon is 1.3 seconds ahead of Earth, Mars is three minutes ahead. So you see, this is the Doppler effect taking effect once again.

So in the same vein, the JWST is able t see as much as 13 billion years into the past and transmit images from that time back to us on Earth, which is a remarkable feat. With this information, we can study and better understand the evolution of the first stars and how they were formed.

The JWST will also have inherent design capabilities that our normal directional antennas are incapable of.

Is it worth it spending billions on The James Webb Telescope?

Some analysts place the project’s cost at $8.8 billion; others believe it will exceed $10 billion over time, but is it worth it? Why does man have to spend so much money on a telescope when the world is in urgent need of other utilities?

There are parts of the globe where access to clean water is a luxury? Regions where the effects of climate change are causing record damage; some communities are even on the verge of starvation or already starving. With all these and more, how can such a costly expenditure be justified?

People who hold the above concerns have every right to do so; however, the JWST is not a luxury project but one that will shed more light and help us understand the world around us. Humans have always been incurably curious, and we are forever in a state of knowing.

The JWST will help us understand the cosmos and how it came into being. We will learn new things about the stars, the planet and what life is like there. The telescope can even help us search for life forms if any.

Even children from amateur technology clubs will get to learn new things that children their ages were not exposed to only a few decades ago.

Better still, the JWST will expose us to questions we’ve not even thought of asking. So it is indeed a worthwhile project that will benefit humanity in the long run.

Location of the James Webb Telescope

The telescope will be located at a point in orbit known as Lagrange 2. This point is about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, and from there, it will capture images across a vast range. Unknown signals will not affect JWST, and it has the capacity to see much further than the Hubble Space Telescope.

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