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Why NASA's New Space Telescope Will Discover Aliens | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum
Will the James Webb Space Telescope solve the greatest unknown? Join us... and find out!

The James Webb Space Telescope probably goes down as one of the most eagerly anticipated space missions of modern times. Plans were first made for it back in 1996, but it will finally launch in 2021... and it could literally change the way we see the universe! Scientists are already predicting that the Webb WILL discover alien life. So, in this video, we put that idea to the test!
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Why NASA’s New Space Telescope Will Discover Aliens


For decades now, the Hubble Space Telescope has been providing us with incredible, ground-breaking, beautiful images of space and the universe. But NASA is about to launch a state-of-the-art upgrade. The James Webb Space Telescope has been a long time coming, after suffering various delays… but it’s finally here! And for anyone with even a faint interest in the search for extraterrestrial life, that’s potentially very big news!

This is Unveiled, and today we’re uncovering the reasons why NASA’s new space telescope will discover aliens.

Are we alone in the universe? It’s easily one of the biggest of all the “big questions” out there. But whatever answer you prefer to give, and whichever theory you tend to side with, the fact remains that we so far haven’t found evidence of alien life. We’ve been searching for years, and have had various close calls but, still, life on Earth is the only life we know about. But that could all be about to change…

The James Webb Space Telescope probably goes down as one of the most eagerly anticipated space missions of modern times. Plans were first made for it back in 1996, just six years after its predecessor, the Hubble, was launched. Back then, it was billed as a next generation telescope - but the team behind it likely didn’t imagine quite how far into the next generation we’d have to get, before the Webb got off the ground!

In the early 2000s, it was all about planning, replanning, evaluating cost and re-evaluating cost. The look and feel and direction for the Webb constantly evolved with the passing time, as new technologies emerged (and also budgets fluctuated). Now, in 2021, it’s an international operation led by NASA with ESA, the European Space Agency, and CSA, the Canadian Space Agency, collaborating. The original planned launch date in 2007 has been pushed back, and back, and back… more than ten times, in fact, but NASA is now confident that it will make its latest scheduled launch, in October 2021.

But what can we expect from the Webb after all this time? The budget for it has now risen past ten billion dollars, so what has all that money produced?

In simplest terms, the James Webb Telescope will be able to see further through the universe, and therefore further back in time, than the Hubble can. As a whole piece of machinery, its mass is actually far smaller than Hubble’s is… but the primary mirror, the bit that really counts, is more than six times bigger. It’ll therefore be able to collect considerably more data and images, shaping how we picture space in the future. But the difference that’s really key between the Webb and the Hubble is that the Webb will be peering at space in infrared. By comparison, the Hubble has very limited infrared capability, and mostly takes in optical and ultraviolet wavelengths. So, what does this mean?

Infrared is a longer wavelength on the electromagnetic spectrum. It therefore penetrates deeper into space, and through regions that might’ve previously absorbed visible light - such as vast, cosmic dust clouds. Over the years, we’ve grown used to the majestic, vibrant images produced by Hubble, and we can expect more of the same… but the Webb images will also look different. Most notably, they’ll look busier because they’ll be capturing so many more objects within their scope. It will be as though there are fewer obstacles in the Webb’s line of sight, which means that more of the universe than ever before will be revealed to us. And that’s why, if there are aliens to discover, then the Webb (more so than anything else before it) will be able to discover them.

From the point of view of this telescope, there are far fewer hiding places left in the cosmos. It sees more of the universe, in general, but it also reaches further back. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which is leading the mission, explains that while Hubble could reach “toddler galaxies”, Webb will go even further to “baby galaxies”. This comparison relates to the fact that an infrared telescope can cut deeper into the universe, which means it’ll get closer than ever to the Big Bang… with best estimates claiming that the Webb will be capable of seeing as far back as just three hundred million years post-creation. This is faintly mind-blowing as, now, not only are we expecting more finely detailed images of space than ever before, but we’re also going to see our horizon pushed considerably further back, as well.

The physicist Michio Kaku has spoken about the Webb in a number of interviews, but in one with the British newspaper, “The Guardian”, in April 2021, he linked its amazing capabilities with reason to be cautious. For him, there’s no doubt that we’re on the verge of learning so much more about our universe, but he also says that he thinks “the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilization” - before going onto debate whether that’s a good idea, or not. For Kaku, we should do so “very carefully”.

The good news is that the Webb itself isn’t likely to alert potential aliens to us. To our existence. It doesn’t especially increase our cosmological footprint, but only adds to what most of the rest of our space technology contributes already. What’s more likely is that it will alert us to potential aliens. For example, reports emerged in January 2020 that scientists at the University of California, Riverside were preparing to use the Webb’s heightened range to determine oxygen levels on a vast number of alien planets. The telescope is so precise that we can use it to literally chart molecules based on light patterns from lightyears away. So, with far-reaching data like this, it’s clear that we’ll soon be mapping the cosmos with extreme accuracy… and therefore, that Michio Kaku’s message that we should tread lightly certainly needs to be considered.

Because, what happens if we do discover alien life thanks to observations made by the James Webb Telescope? How would we move forward with this information? Would we seek to make ourselves known? And who would get to decide? For Kaku, and any other concerned onlooker, these are the sorts of questions that we could be facing very soon. And what’s perhaps a little worrying is that we currently have very little in terms of a global policy in place. If (and when) we do discover aliens, we could well be making a lot of the rules up as we go along…

There is still time before any of this becomes an issue, though. While the Webb is now scheduled to launch in October 2021, it won’t be operational until early 2022. A major reason for this can be found in where the telescope will be based. While the Hubble orbits Earth at around 350 miles up, the Webb will be almost one million miles away - at what’s known as the L2 Lagrange point. This is a very particular spot in the solar system, from which the Earth and sun are always in line with each other. This means that sunlight (and Earthlight) will only ever come from one direction, as the Webb will effectively track Earth’s orbit around our central star.

This is important for the mission, because infrared telescopes need to be kept as cool as possible. The Webb therefore has a massive, tennis court-sized solar shield on one side, protecting it from the sun and the Earth… while, on the other side, its view out into space is totally unimpaired. In fact, the unfolding of the solar shield will be one of the more exciting and iconic early moments, as the telescope will go from being densely packed during transit to assuming its true shape.

So, what are your predictions for the James Webb Space Telescope? What do you think (and hope) it will reveal to us? According to even the most optimistic time frames, its mission may only last for ten years after launch… which means that by the early 2030s, it could all be over! But what mysteries will it have solved by then?

In a year that’s already seen a number of historic, scientific moments - including the landing of Perseverance on Mars, the mapping of 25,000 black holes by LOFAR, and the possibly physics-shattering muon g-minus-two experiment - are we saving the biggest story of all for a little later in the calendar?

For many scientists and astronomers, this could be the big one! If all goes to plan, the Webb will launch in October 2021, and begin beaming back images in 2022. It will allow us to see more of the universe, and in greater detail, than ever before. And perhaps it will even usher in a new age of knowledge and enlightenment. And that’s why NASA’s new space telescope could finally cross off one of our greatest unknowns… by discovering alien life.
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