The giant James Webb Space Telescope has been undergoing final tests in preparation for its launch, scheduled for December. In this The Conversation weekly podcast, we talk to two astronomers who discuss the telescope and the questions that they hope it will help answer about the origin of the universe and conditions on the exoplanets around distant stars.
We also hear about new research on the tactics that the food industry uses to increase sales of ultra-processed products in countries with middle-income.
The James Webb Space Telescope, with a mirror measuring six and a quarter meters, a sunshield the size of a tennis court, and an instrument compartment larger than a telephone booth, is huge. It took nearly 25 years to build the telescope, and it cost around US$10 billion.
After many years of delays and some last-minute technical glitches, the telescope will finally blast into space on December 22 from Kourou, French Guiana.
Martin Barstow is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Leicester, UK, and the chair of the Space Telescope Science Institute Council. The council will run the James Webb Space Telescope’s operations center. The Hubble Space Telescope had a mirror problem that caused the images to be blurry. Nasa sent a team to correct the problem.
Barstow says, “We can’t go to repair this one.” It’s just too far. For me, the most important thing is to see that telescope in action. We who are near the telescope know what can happen. “I don’t really care about the first picture, I’m just looking for a sharp image.”
The telescope will be operational soon, allowing astronomers the opportunity to peer into the past to see the first stars that appeared shortly after the Big Bang.
It will help answer the question of how galaxies were formed from those first stars. Marcia Rieke is a Regents Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, US, and principal investigator of one of the cameras aboard the telescope. The near-infrared camera.
“We know that a variety of star clusters and galaxies were formed in the early stages of evolution, but we do not understand which range of sizes it is,” says Rieke. We also don’t know how these pieces combine to create bigger and larger galaxies.
Read more: James Webb Space Telescope: An astronomer on the team explains how to send a giant telescope to space – and why
The telescope will also be able to improve our understanding of exoplanets and planets in orbit around other stars. Barstow says the instruments of James Webb will allow astronomers to measure the atmospheric composition and temperature of these planets. “We might even be able to see evidence for the existence of structures in the atmosphere, such as clouds,” he says.
In the second part of this episode, we examine the market for ultra-processed food such as cakes, soft drinks, frozen meals, or snacks. These foods and beverages are linked to higher risks for obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. They’re also big for the food industry. In recent years, companies have realized that middle-income countries like South Africa, Indonesia, and China are the fastest-growing markets.
Edwin Kwong explains the recent research he conducted at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He was interested in the tactics that some of these companies use to target the consumers of these industrializing nations.
Lutfhi Dzulfikar is an editor at The Conversation, Jakarta, Indonesia. She recommends some readings about the recent volcanic explosion on the island of Java.
Mend Mariwany, Gemma Ware, and Eloise Stevens produced this episode of The Conversation Weekly. Sound design was done by Eloise. Neeta Sarra is the composer of our theme music. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. Sign up for Daily Email from The Conversation here.