First James Webb Space Telescope General Observer Science Programs Selected

Artist's impression of the space telescope James Webb

The James Webb Space Telescope is a space observatory to see the Universe further than ever. It is designed to answer important questions about the Universe and make important discoveries in all fields of astronomy. Webb will observe the first galaxies in the Universe, reveal the birth of stars and planets, and search for exoplanets with potential for life. Closer to home, Webb will also see our own Solar System in a new light. Credit: ESA / ATG medialab

Scientific observations of the Observer General for the POT/ ESA / CSA James Webb Space TelescopeThe first year of operation has been selected. Proposals from ESA member states comprise 33% of the total number of proposals selected and correspond to 30% of the telescope time available on Webb.

The NASA / ESA / CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s leading space science observatory when it launches later this year. Webb will solve mysteries about our Solar System, observe distant worlds around other stars, and explore the mysterious structures and origins of our Universe. Webb is an international program run by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Webb mission officials have announced the selection of General Observer programs for the telescope’s first year, known as Cycle 1. These specific programs will provide the global astronomical community with the first comprehensive opportunity to research scientific targets with Webb. The selected proposals address a wide variety of scientific areas and will help fulfill ESA’s overall mission of promoting our understanding of the Universe and our place in it.

The general observer time with Webb is extremely competitive. As a result, the proposal selection process is rigorous. Members of the astronomical community were assigned to different panels that covered broad scientific topics. Of these, 52 were from ESA Member States. The panels met virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over the course of three weeks and members spent countless additional hours reading and evaluating the proposals.

A total of 1,172 proposals were received before the deadline. Scientists from 44 countries requested a portion of the 6000 hours of observation available. This represents approximately two-thirds of all Cycle 1 observation time, the remainder of which is allocated to the Science Early Release and Guaranteed Time (GTO) programs. Of the 266 selected observing proposals, 33% are from ESA member states, corresponding to 30% of the telescope time available on Webb during the first cycle. Additionally, of the selected proposals, 41% will primarily use Webb’s NIRSpec instrument and 28% will primarily use the MIRI instrument.

“We celebrate the successful partnership between the European Space Agency and our colleagues at NASA and CSA. We look forward to the beautiful images and spectra and the amazing discoveries that Webb will make in this first year of observations, ”said Günther Hasinger, ESA science director.

“At ESA, we are delighted to see the great commitment and fantastic success of the European astronomical community in obtaining precious observing time on this extraordinary mission, the James Webb Space Telescope,” said Antonella Nota, director of the office of the ESA in the space telescope. Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA.

ESA provided two instruments to the James Webb Space Telescope mission. This includes the entirety of the NIRSpec instrument, a near-infrared spectrograph that will allow large spectroscopic studies of astronomical objects such as distant stars or galaxies. ESA also has a 50% stake in the MIRI instrument, the only instrument in the telescope that is capable of operating in mid-infrared wavelengths. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from the European spaceport in French Guiana.

The full list of General Observer programs is available here.

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