HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — On Tuesday, NASA released the first set of color photos from the James Webb Telescope. The spectacular pictures challenge what we already know about the universe.
News 19 spoke with Dr. Philip Stahl, a Senior Optical Physicist at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Stahl helped develop the Webb Space Telescope and oversaw the manufacture, test, and certification of the Webb primary, secondary and tertiary mirrors.
“My job was to invent the technology needed to make the mirrors for the telescope,” he said.
Stahl stated he worked with NASA on the Webb telescope from 1999 until 2011. He said seeing his work come to fruition and help give us new information is exciting.
“Just with these first five images, which are very simple preliminary, there is new knowledge coming out,” Stahl continued.
Stahl explained that the five pictures that NASA chose to release were chosen because they represent the five Webb Science Missions. However, he said those five images are just the beginning.
“First light of the universe, galaxy evolution, planetary formations, star formation, and exoplanet science,” he told News 19. “When we actually get to the full extent of what Webb can do, it’s just going to be amazing.”
He isn’t the only one in the Rocket City who is excited about the images and the opportunity they provide to learn about the universe.
David Weigel, the director of the planetarium at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, was buzzing with excitement on Tuesday.
“I’m nearly speechless at this point at just how amazing the pictures are,” Weigel said.
Weigel’s work at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center allows him to constantly study images of space and share knowledge with visitors.
He said he’s thrilled about the data collected by the telescope, and how it can further our understanding of things beyond our planet.
“We can look at the fingerprint of light, and as we do so we can look at what the composition of these things is, and that’s great from a star and a galaxy standpoint,” Weigel said. “It’s really great from an exoplanet atmosphere standpoint because then we can say things about whether an exoplanet is full of water in its atmosphere, maybe has some hydrocarbons, and start to make some ideas as to whether they are habitable or not.”
News 19 asked Weigel if the telescope and the data collected could help us discover life on other planets.
“We can’t say definitively if there is life somewhere with these signatures, but we certainly can get better ideas of whether these things are possible and if we can find some earth-like planets in the very near future,” he concluded.
Stahl also said the James Webb Space Telescope will be in space for quite some time, and could provide more pictures like these on a regular basis.
“We’ve got more than 20 years of propellant, so we’re going to be taking data and providing data for a really long time,” he said.