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James Webb

Schools are invited to work with astronomers from the UK Astronomy Technology Centre to identify potential targets for the James Webb Space Telescope. Scheduled for launch in 2020, Webb will help us understand more about how our Universe formed and evolved.

One aspect of interest is how the materials around us are made and spread through space. We know that they were mostly produced by stars as they lived, died and collided with each other. We can study the amount and different type of elements in cosmic dust to help us identify how the materials were created over the history of the Universe.

Dust is studied by looking at a plot of how much light a star gives off at different wavelengths (a spectrum) and looking for tell-tale features (bumps, dips and wiggles) which are indicators of light emitted or obscured by dust.

In this project you will be analysing spectral data from a previous mission – the Spitzer Space Telescope – to find dusty evolved stars and forming-stars in our galaxy and others nearby. Spitzer observed over thirteen thousand point sources, however, and some of them will be the type of star we’re looking for. The resulting work will not just be of use in identifying potential targets for Webb, it will also form the first fully classified catalogue of these sources, which will be an extremely valuable resource for astronomers.

The project launches in September 2018. IRIS is working in partnership with the Science and Technologies Facilities Council who have funded this project.

Register your interest by contacting us at

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