The launch of the long awaited James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on Christmas Day 2021 heralds a new era in observational astronomy. JWST should not just be thought of as a successor to Hubble, though as a larger space-based telescope it has all the potential to be as revolutionary. Its operating range in the infra-red allows it to push back our observations to the ‘Dark Ages’ of Astronomy.
Following the Big Bang the Universe was opaque for some 400,000 years, given the temperatures did not allow recombination of particles to form atoms and thus light could not escape. The cosmic background explorer satellites have enabled us to gain a detailed insight into the first light that was eventually emitted (first scattering surface) but there then exists some 300 million years before the first stars and galaxies are seen to form. JWST will be able to image objects at high-redshift in this early Universe and for the first time help us test existing theories of galactic formation.
In this highly illustrated talk I will cover the excitement behind the mission and its potential. I will hope to show how the results could bring cosmological and evolutionary models of the early Universe into the realm of observational astrophysics.