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Irish scientists will help build the world's most powerful and expensive telescope

The new telescope will be 10 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope and help us observe the first stars in the universe.

The telescope will be built to observe the stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.
The telescope will be built to observe the stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.
Image: UPI/PA Images

IRISH SCIENTISTS WILL be part of a team building a new $10 billion space telescope that, as the most expensive ever built, will supersede the Hubble telescope and help us see the first stars formed after the Big Bang.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be more than 10 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, the best telescope ever built. The new telescope may be 100 times better than the Hubble at seeing the first stars formed after the Big Bang, potentially revealing new information about how our universe was formed.

Dr Patrick Kavanagh of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies is part of the Irish team, which is working on the telescope’s infrared instruments.

Their contribution will be hugely significant as this infrared technology is what will allow the telescope to be the first one to see the universe’s earliest stars and galaxies.

“It is sure to be a discovery that will be heralded around the world and Irish people can be proud that it was our work that made this possible,” Kavanagh said.

Seeing the first light in the universe – it’s almost science fiction.

This ancient infrared light is formed as the first stars and galaxies that were formed after the Big bang rush away from us so quickly that their light is shifted into the infrared spectrum.

The new technology will be able to see “the first light in the Universe, the first galaxies formed, inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today, exoplanets and their atmospheres.”

The Irish scientists will work as members of the European Space Agency alongside teams from NASA and Canada. Named after James Webb, who served as NASA’s second-ever from 1961 to 1958, the telescope is scheduled for launch in 2020.

It will be the premier observatory of the next decade and will provide thousands of astronomers worldwide with pioneering observations, facilitating discoveries in many fields of astronomy and astrophysics.

Despite having no national space agency, Irish scientists have made huge contributions to our understanding of the universe, according to Kavanagh, who is giving a public lecture about the telescope this evening with Astronomy Ireland.

“In many ways, Ireland punches above its weight.”

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