James Webb Space Telescope will look back toward the moment of creation
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"Let there be light..." These powerful words from the first chapter of Genesis tell us a fundamental truth. That God exists, and He is the creator of the universe. And when we compare the account of creation in Genesis with the revelations presented by science, we see they agree. We conclude therefore that the Biblical account is true. Now, using the tools of science, we are about to look more deeply than ever before, into the beginning of creation.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - On December 22, a rocket will lift off from a pad in French Guiana. The rocket will loft the James Webb Space Telescope on a complex trajectory, and if all goes well, it will park the massive satellite behind the Moon. From there, the telescope will unfold and begin exploring the cosmos, on a mission to answer some remarkably profound questions about our universe.
Until now, the technology and budget to achieve this was out of reach. But after decades of development, we are now capable of launching a telescope that is so powerful, it will look back to the beginning of time. How is this possible?
What few people know is, looking into space is also looking back in time. When you look at the sunrise or sunset, you are actually seeing the sun as it appeared eight minutes ago. That's because the sun is eight light-minutes away from earth. That's how long it takes for the sun's light to reach us. When you look at a star in the sky, you are looking as far back as 1,000 years into the past. A few stars are farther than that, but most of the ones we can see at night are less than 1,000 light years away.
A light year is the distance light travels in a year, through the vacuum of space.
With a telescope, we can see much farther into space, and therefore we can see millions of light years into the past. And with high-powered telescopes parked in space, above the distortion and interference of Earth's atmosphere, we can see things that are billions of light years away.
The James Webb Space Telescope is sensitive enough to see light that took 13.8 billion years to reach us. That's at the very edge of the expanding, observable universe. What we will see therefore is the first light of stars, that switched on just after the moment of creation.
All this is possible because the universe is expanding, something it has done since the Big Bang. The Big Bang Theory is presently the leading explanation for the physical reality that is the universe. It was first proposed by a Catholic, Jesuit priest and physicist, Georges Lemaitre.
In addition to peering deep into space and time itself, the telescope will also look at the atmospheres of planets, orbiting nearby stars. Some of these planets orbit their stars at distances where liquid water must exist at the surface, something believed to be a prerequisite for life. And where life exists, it may be possible to detect based on biomarkers in the planet's atmosphere. For example, the presence of oxygen would be evidence of plant life.
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This means the James Webb Space Telescope will reveal to us whether or not life may exist on many nearby planets. And we will have these answers in months to a few years.
Never before in human history has a single scientific experiment promised to answer such profound questions in so short a time.
Having these answers will teach us much about God and His creation. Was the entire universe created for us alone? Or do we share it with other creations? If the universe is populated with others, how can we be created in God's image? Or do humans exist in many places? Did Jesus die for our sins alone? What about others, should they exist?
The most likely result is we will find we are alone in the universe, at least so far as we can tell. This will affirm our central place in creation. But even if we discover otherwise, no finding will change the fact that our universe is a remarkable creation, which is finely tuned for our existence. And the more we learn about it, the more we will learn about God, and His deep, abiding love for us.