NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will search for signs of extraterrestrial life on Earth-sized planets of the recently discovered TRAPPIST planetary system, as well as on Jupiter’s moon Europa, the US space agency said today. The James Webb Space Telescope is designed to complement and extend the scientific capabilities of other NASA missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. “From the very first galaxies after the Big Bang to searching for chemical fingerprints of life on Enceladus, Europa, and exoplanets like TRAPPIST-1e, Webb will be looking at some incredible things in our universe,” said Eric Smith, James Webb Space Telescope Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“With over 2,100 initial observations planned, there is no limit to what we might discover with this incredible telescope,” said Smith. The broad spectrum of initial observations will address all of the science areas the telescope is designed to explore, from first light and the assembly of galaxies to the birth of stars and planets. Targets will range from the solar system’s outer planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and icy Kuiper Belt to exoplanets to distant galaxies in the young universe. “These observations by the teams of people who designed and built the Webb instruments will yield not only amazing science, but will be crucial in putting the observatory through its paces and understanding its many capabilities,” said Ken Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in the US.