Study of earliest galaxies will be one of the first to use James Webb Space Telescope

Infrared telescope will allow observation of galaxies as they appeared 13.4 billion years ago.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Nov 29, 2017
The Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey, a study of the universe's earliest galaxies, is one of 13 proposals selected for first use of NASA's $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will launch in 2019.

Led by principal investigator Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, CEERS, which has already worked with the Hubble Space Telescope, studies the evolution of galaxies and star formation rates in early galaxies.

Using JWST, CEERS scientists will study the same sections of the sky they observed with Hubble, but this time in the infrared.

While Hubble observes primarily in optical wavelengths, JWST is an infrared telescope.

"We will discover the most distant galaxies ever seen--galaxies that were literally invisible to Hubble," Finkelstein said, noting JWST will be capable of seeing ancient galaxies as they appeared 13.4 billion years ago.

A total of 105 astronomers from 10 countries, including scientists from 28 separate universities in the US, are part of the CEERS team.

CEERS research, like that of all projects selected for first use of JWST, will be conducted during the telescope's first five months and will serve as a test of its instruments.

Data the team collects will immediately be made available to scientists around the world.

"This will be the first time anyone has had access to this brand new telescope that is in some ways 100 times better than Hubble. This telescope will reveal enormous truths the moment we turn it on," Finkelstein stated.

NASA received more than 100 applications from scientists hoping to gain early access to JWST for their research projects.

"CEERS was selected based on the importance of the science it will do, as well as the fact it will use multiple instruments on the telescope and test many different modes of observing," Finkelstein explained.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are also involved in three other projects selected for early use of JWST. These include an exoplanet imaging project, a study of star populations, and a study of galaxies via gravitational lensing.



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