NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: The ultimate exoplanet hunter
Exoplanets, or extrasolar planets as they are also known, are planets that orbit a star outside of our solar system. They vary greatly in size and composition, from gas giants to rocky planets similar to Earth.
First discovered in the 1990s, exoplanets have revolutionised our understanding of the universe, revealing that our own solar system is just one of many possible planetary systems. Exoplanets are detected using various methods, such as radial velocity, transit photometry and direct imaging.
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope (retired), the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and now the new-generation James Webb Space Telescope are some of the technological marvels that acts as our ‘eyes in space’, with each new telescope providing new insights—and new perspectives—of our universe.
Launched in December 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most complex space science observatory in NASA’s arsenal, and its already creating waves (or should we say, NIRSpec). This year, researchers confirmed the first exoplanet using the James Webb Space Telescope. With a snappy classification title of LHS 475 b, the newly discovered planet coming in at 99% of Earth’s diameter, boasting a similar rocky composition.
According to NASA, it’s the possibility of pinpointing rocky exoplanets (like Earth) orbiting smaller red dwarf stars that has dawned a new era of discovery. And the James Webb Space Telescope is only just getting warmed up.
In the year since it became fully operational, the James Webb Space Telescope has provided stunning new images of the cosmos, challenging and amplifying what we think we know about the formation and development of our universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope is also providing unprecedented images of the universe as far back in time as it has ever been possible to go, capturing light from some of the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang.
With these astonishing, boundary-pushing discoveries, World Science Festival Brisbane is thrilled to present two special conversations that will closely examine what the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered, and whether there are any exoplanets out there capable of hosting life.
|The Goldilocks Zone: Hunting Exoplanets||The Unfolding Cosmos: Revelations from the James Webb Space Telescope
|To support life as we know it, a planet needs to orbit just the right distance from its star, so it is not too hot and not too cold, but just right. It’s called the Goldilocks Zone for obvious reasons and Earth fits the bill very nicely indeed. But we are not alone – there are myriad other-worldly exoplanets that lie far beyond our own solar system and fit within the Zone.|
The Goldilocks Zone: Hunting Exoplanets brings together a constellation of astrophysicists including Tamara Davis, Michelle Bannister, Chelsea Huang and Professor of Astronomy Peter Tuthill, to share the latest discoveries and explore what exoplanets can tell us about our past, our future or even the nature of our own terrestrial home and whether any exoplanets are capable of hosting life.
1pm, Sunday 26 March | Cremorne Theatre, QPAC | Adult $35, Concession $30
|The Unfolding Cosmos: Revelations from the James Webb Space Telescope will beam Nobel Laureate and NASA’s top scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope, John Mather, live from New York into Brisbane for a special conversation with Brian Greene.
John and Brian will also be joined by a stellar line-up of scientific experts, including NASA’s Exoplanet Archive lead scientist (and originally from Brisbane!), Jessie L. Christensen; NASA’s Deputy Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, Stefanie Milam; Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology Karl Glazebrook; and the University of Queensland’s ARC DECRA Fellow and Astrophysics Lecturer, Dr Benjamin Pope.
11am | Sunday 26 March | Playhouse, QPAC | Adult $35, Concession $30