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How NASA’s new telescope can see into the past – and so can you

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful telescope ever built.

It should give us unprecedented glimpses into the universe and will technically be able to see into the past.

How will the James Webb Space Telescope look back in time?

Webb is the largest and most complex telescope of its kind, equipped with all sorts of sophisticated accessories.

Its goal is to uncover the hidden depths of our universe and peer into the faint light of early stars and galaxies that formed about 250 million years ago after the Big Bang.

The kit will be able to see through dense clouds of dust covering distant planets.

Getting past it could help indicate life, but experts doubt we’ll actually find aliens with it.

The “time-travelling” aspect of the James Webb telescope has everything to do with how long it takes for light to travel through the universe.

Since light takes a very long time to travel, we can essentially go back a long way to the time when stars and planets formed after the Big Bang.

Charlotte Beskow, Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Office in Kourou, poses at the Guiana Space Center, Kourou, French Guiana, November 5, 2021, where the James Webb Space Telescope is being tested and verified at the S5 Payload Preparation Facility ( EPCU- S5) ahead of a planned December 18 launch.
Charlotte Beskow, Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Office in Kourou, poses at the Guiana Space Center, Kourou, French Guiana, November 5, 2021, where the James Webb Space Telescope is being tested and verified at the S5 Payload Preparation Facility ( EPCU- S5) ahead of a planned December 18 launch.
Getty Images

The light reaching the James Webb Space Telescope may have traveled millions of miles from a star that no longer exists.

If we look far enough into the distance with the telescope, light from near the beginning of the universe becomes visible.

Scientists believe some parts of the universe will become impossible to see.

That’s because the universe is believed to be expanding, so some light sources are constantly moving away from us.

That means light may never reach the James Webb Space Telescope.

However, it is hoped that the telescope will teach us something about how the universe is expanding.

Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope November 2, 2016 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope November 2, 2016 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Getty Images

Astronomers suspect that this process is powered by something called “dark energy.”

The James Webb telescope should be able to image stars so precisely that it can measure the dark space between them.

Verifying these measurements could determine how fast the stars are moving apart and how fast the entire universe is expanding.

How to look back in time

The telescope has now reached its final position.
The telescope has now reached its final position.
NASA

Technically, every time you look at the moon or catch a glimpse of the sun, you’re looking back in time.

Light from the sun takes 8.3 minutes to reach Earth.

If the sun suddenly disappeared, you wouldn’t notice it for 8.3 minutes because its light would still appear on Earth after it disappeared.

The same happens when you look at the moon.

The lunar surface is about 23.6121 miles from Earth, so it takes 1.3 seconds for light from the moon to reach observers on our planet.

When you look at the moon, you don’t see it in the present, you actually see it as it was 1.3 seconds ago.

This story originally appeared on the sun and is reproduced here with permission.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/11/how-nasas-new-telescope-can-see-back-in-time-and-you-can-do-it-too/ How NASA’s new telescope can see into the past – and so can you

JACLYN DIAZ

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