The Edge of the Universe

By Eric Vallen

On April 24, 1990, arguably the greatest telescope ever was launched from the Kennedy Space Center. For more than thirty years, Hubble has supplied the world with fantastic photos, as it holds technology capable of seeing light further away from Earth than any other telescope– at least until the creation of the James Webb telescope. In December of this past year, James Webb launched from the Guiana Space Center, destined to take yet more pictures of the cosmos. In fact, as of February 11, actual pictures have been coming back for the public to see! Named after a NASA overseer of the past, the telescope has technology that James Webb could have only dreamed of during his tenure. Unlike almost all traditional telescopes, including Hubble, James Webb uses devices that detect infrared light to study the cosmos. Human eyes, traditional telescopes, and Hubble use mirrors to detect visible light. Now, the Webb telescope does have a massive mirror (6 meters in diameter) but will also be able to detect infrared. Webb’s mirror, for space based telescopes, is the largest ever created. This factor, combined with all-new infrared technology supplied by the Canadian Space Agency, makes Webb quite literally the most powerful space telescope ever created. The power I speak of isn’t just capturing power, but the ability to look back in time. Hubble was the pioneer of this science, being able to see light from further back in time. As of now, with Hubble semi-recent installation of the wide field camera 3, it can see 96% of the way back to the big bang. With James Webb, we will be able to see further than 99% back, nearly to the beginning of the universe. This ingenious telescope has shaved more than 450 million years off of light we, as humans, have not observed. On the scale of the Universe, we have nearly conquered it in terms of historical exploration. Now, with the blinding pace at which technology is advancing, it is simply a matter of waiting for a way to finally see the way in which our universe began.