The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a 6-meter diameter space telescope, is set to produce spectacular images and redefine much of what we know about the universe. At a million miles from Earth, JWST is centered on a point in space known as L2, which allows it to stay in line with the Earth, while at sufficient distance to be shielded from any photons from the Sun or the Earth. JWST will start collecting science data in the summer of 2022, including data to be studied by Prof. Anne Jaskot and her students.
On Jan 26, 2022, Abby Kinney ’24, Michael Arena ’23, and Dr. Kevin Flaherty used the 24-inch telescope atop TPL to image JWST in its orbit. Taken over the course of 2 hours, the sequence of images below show JWST moving amongst the background stars. While faint, JWST is still clearly visible.
These images were taken in concert with astronomy students at Colgate University and Wellesley College. Using simultaneous images from these three locations, we can measure the parallax of JWST, or the apparent difference in position of JWST as seen from the three locations. This parallax, shown in the sequence of images below, depends on the distance, allowing us to directly measure the distance to JWST.