News

Jump into Space with NASA's Hubble and James Webb Space Telescope Interactive Exhibit in Pittsburgh
12.08.08
 
Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-286-4044
Robert.J.Gutro@nasa.gov

Mike Marcus
Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh
412-237-1657
MarcusM@carnegiesciencecenter.org

Release No. 08-095

The HST and JWST exhibit Photograph of the universe display and the Hubble Space Telescope model. Credit: Lee H. Skolnick Architecture/Design Partnership
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microshutters closeup The microshutters are arranged in a waffle-like grid that contains more than 62,000 shutters. The microshutters array above is about the size of a postage stamp. Credit NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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drawing that compares HST and JWST mirrors This drawing compares the sizes of the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope primary mirrors. Credit: NASA
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GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's Hubble exhibit now has a companion, an interactive exhibit on the James Webb Space Telescope -- and it's now in Pittsburgh for all to see. Visitors will be able to experience how the Webb telescope will work, through computer games, videos and displays.

The Webb telescope exhibit is being added to the "New Views of the Universe: Hubble Space Telescope" traveling exhibit. The Hubble exhibit opened on November 10 at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Penn., and the Webb telescope part of that exhibit just opened.

Visitors will learn about cutting-edge technology like one that will see the universe in infrared light. All the new technology will enable scientists to see farther back in time than any other satellite in existence and make many scientific breakthroughs.

Several interactive games are also featured in the exhibit. You can step through distances in the universe with the "Cosmic Distance Scale"; "Scope it Out!" teaches players about two different types of telescopes and show how the Webb telescope is similar, yet different than other telescopes.

"The Webb telescope's increased sensitivity will allow scientists to see back to when the first galaxies formed just after the Big Bang," said Eric Smith, Webb program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The larger telescope will have advantages for all aspects of astronomy and will revolutionize studies of how stars and planetary systems form and evolve."

Stand up displays will explain the revolutionary technology that is being developed for the Webb telescope, such as the microshutters and mirrors.

Microshutters are a new piece of technology being used on the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument on the Webb telescope. NIRSpec is an instrument that will allow scientists to capture the spectra of more than 100 objects at once. Because the objects NIRSpec will be looking at are so far away and so faint, the instrument needs a way to block out the light of nearer bright objects. The microshutters were developed to help solve this problem. Microshutters are tiny cells that measure 100 by 200 microns, or about the width of three to six human hairs.

One of the exhibits will also offer a comparison between the Hubble and the Webb telescope. One thing that catches the eye is the difference in the size of the mirrors on the Webb, versus the Hubble Space Telescope.

Both a telescope’s sensitivity and how much detail it can see are directly related to the size of the mirror area that collects light from the cosmos. A larger area collects more light to see deeper into space, just like a larger bucket collects more water in a rain shower than a small one. Webb will have a much larger mirror than the Hubble, which means the Webb telescope will have excellent resolution. The completed primary mirror will be 6.6 meters (7.2 yards) in diameter, about 2.75 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope's primary mirror, which is 2.4 meters (2.6 yds) in diameter.

Viewers will also be able to read about the Webb's mission plans and engineering challenges on the mission, such as folding up the giant mirrors in the rocket for launch, and unfolding them once deployed in space. For those who can't see the exhibit in Pittsburgh, it's also available online at the NASA Webb telescope website: http://jwst.gsfc.nasa.gov/exhibit.html.

The Hubble traveling exhibit was developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). This major 2,000 square foot traveling exhibition has been fully updated and is now available at low cost directly from the Hubble Project Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

To see the Webb Interactive Exhibit on-line, visit http://jwst.gsfc.nasa.gov/exhibit.html

The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to launch in 2013. The telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

For more information on the Traveling Exhibit, visit http://hubblesource.stsci.edu/exhibits/traveling/index_02.php

For information about the Carnegie Science Center, visit http://www.carnegiesciencecenter.org/

For more information about the James Webb Space Telescope, visit http://jwst.gsfc.nasa.gov