James Webb Telescope, is it better than Hubble?

By Anas Abdelmajuid ('24)


On Christmas Eve, the gold-plated James Webb telescope was launched into space, in route to circle the L2 point (a point in space where the gravity from the sun and the earth balance the orbital motion of a satellite) while circling the sun and unlocking new space discoveries. This Christmas miracle might be better-looking than the Hubble telescope, but what makes it better?

The main difference between the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is the section of the Electro-magnetic Spectrum (EM) they are focusing on.

The HST looks at the optical (visible light) and ultraviolet section of the EM, making it able to see the first stars in the universe. On the other hand, the JWST is mainly focused on the infrared section of the EM, which is a longer wavelength. This shift of what to look for makes the JWST capable of looking at the creation of galaxies, making it more important and beneficial.

The JWST looking in infrared also makes the telescope able to see stars that are behind space dust. Because the HST used visible and ultraviolet light, it was able to see stars that were in front of the space dust (due to visible light and ultraviolet light not able to pass space dust completely). With this knowledge, the JWST will be able to look into stellar nurseries and take pictures of stars being born around 10-15 billion years ago.

According to sophomore Shawn Georgie, “Being able to see past these space dust clumps, we will be able to discover more solar systems that might have exoplanets that are habitable for us.”

Another advantage of the JWST is its placement. The HST is only 570 km away from the Earth and orbits the Earth, while the JWST will be 1.5 million km away from the Earth and will orbit the Sun. The JWST being this far away from the Earth makes it more capable of taking pictures of galaxies and stars that are further away. Also, its far placement can cancel the major picture disturbances that occur due to the sun’s light.

The major visible difference between the JWST and the HST is the mirror used on these telescopes. The Hubble telescope’s primary mirror is 2.4-meters made of solid glass, while the JWST’s primary mirror is 6.5 meters made of glass and coated with gold. This incredible size difference makes the JWST able to catch more images.

Another major accomplishment of the JWST is that it can detect chemical signatures/biosignatures that would indicate possible life on planets that appear to be in the habitable zones of other stars.

Junior Ismail Elgendy said, “The HST was able to locate if exoplanets were in the habitable zone, but the JWST will tell if water can be sustained”, making the JWST out-perform the HST.

Even though the JWST is better than the HST, it is still just an extension of it.

According to Astronomy teacher Mrs. Allison Miller, “The JWST is mainly taking what it learned from the HST and trying to expand on it”, and Mrs. Miller also pointed out that the goal of the JWST is to “‘over achieve’ what the HST has started ”.

Although the JWST is better than the HST, the latter will never be forgotten.

Sophomore Tanishq Sharma said that the HST “ has created a great foundation for astronomers to build on, and for decades has provided amazing images of space”.

The HST might have been surpassed by the JWST, but it will always hold its place and never be forgotten.

The JWST is going to be the greatest breakthrough to the field of astronomy for years to come, it will bring photos of stars and galaxies being born, and will ultimately be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope.


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