Cosmic mysteries that astronomers hope to solve with Webb Telescope

With six times the light-collecting area than the Hubble, the JWST must be able to see them clearly and show the universe as it was 100 million years after the Big Bang.

When Galilei Galileo famously turned his crude refracting telescope, with just 8x magnification, towards heaven on the night of August 25, 1609, the science of astronomy took a giant leap. Until then, only 1,022 stars catalogued in Almagest by Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 100 – c. 170) were believed to exist in the whole universe.

However, the handcrafted amateurish Galilean telescope showed hundreds of stars in every direction of the sky, so dim that it remained invisible to the naked eye. Black spots could be spotted on the Sun until then considered a symbol of perfection. Moon imagined to be smooth was dotted with craters and mountains. Jupiter was seen to be accompanied by four moons going around it. The phases of Venus seen from the telescope suggested that the planets are going around the Sun, and Earth is not the centre of the Universe. The upheaval caused by the petty telescope was so much that Galileo was demonised as a heretic, locked up in jail, and his books forbidden. If a crude instrument could do this much, imagine what a capable telescope can do?

Every new generation of telescopes brought new vistas. Planets Uranus, Neptune; many moons around Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; hundreds of solar system objects such as asteroids, exotic stars like neutron stars came to light. It also changed our perspective; Earth was not at the centre of the Universe; our Sun and our galaxy Milky Way are just one among the billions. While the night sky looks serene and placid, it appears cataclysmic through radio, X-ray and Gamma-ray telescopes, colliding galaxies, exploding stars and matter vanishing into the abyss of mysterious black holes.

What awaits JWST

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