On Wednesday, the Museum of Natural History hosted a Science Café event, “Of The Galaxy, and Beyond,” in Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub to discuss the James Webb Space Telescope and view recent NASA photographs.
An ambience that invited initial strangers to talk about the telescope and space was at the heart of the event.
According to NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope is an orbiting observatory that extends the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope. Webb can look further back in time to view the formation of other galaxies with more clarity and resolution.
LSA professor Ted Bergin, chair of the astronomy department, began the talk by discussing the event’s main questions: “Why did we build the James Webb Telescope?” and “What do the pictures tell us?”
LSA freshman Jordan Hoffner attended the event for the Douglas Scholars Program and to learn more about the pictures that the James Webb Telescope had released.
“I’ve always seen pictures, but I’ve never been able to see what they mean,” Hoffner said. “I learned much more about structures, how stars are formed, and how we can see them in different wavelengths.”
Bergin said the goals of the Webb Observatory are to show the birth of stars and planets and how galaxies are assembled. Although more ambitious, Bergin said the observatory hoped to discover where the first light in the universe is located and find life's origin.
Most of the presentation involved comparing James Webb Observatory images to previous images of the Hubble Telescope.
LSA professor Denise Sekaquaptewa, who has attended and hosted Science Cafés in the past, said she was interested in the impact of the Webb telescope on society’s knowledge of the universe.
“A thing I (recall) was that (Bergin) said that they started 25 years ago and that they didn’t know about these other planets around other stars, and now they know about so many,” Sekaquaptewa said. “I think that’s not that long ago. Wait about 25 more years. What more will we know?”
Groups then joined the full room for a forum-style discussion, where everyone was free to ask questions about the presentation and astronomy.
Bergin discussed how important technology, such as charge-coupled device chips, was developed by NASA during a past project. These chips are a part of different types of cameras. Another technical innovation discovered in astronomy was the radio imaging used in MRI machines, Bergin explained.
“I want to excite people into the wonders of science so that you can look at the world as I do and ask the whys and the hows,” Bergin said. “I love interacting with (the) public, and I love interacting with people. They come up with many questions that I never thought of … It pushes me to go beyond, and I learn just as much as I give out.”
Daily Staff Reporter Meghan Kunkle can be reached at [email protected]