1 February 2013

JWST Resources from AAS 221

Jason Kalirai, JHU Applied Physics Laboratory

The James Webb Space Telescope project continued to make solid progress in 2012.  Several of the key mission milestones were completed this past year, and the telescope is on track for an October 2018 launch. The JWST team participated in the 2013 AAS meeting in Long Beach CA, and presented the community with a number of updates on the present status of the project, the future outlook, and the science opportunities. Many of the resources from the meeting are now available online.

The science case of JWST continues to grow as astronomers identify new questions and opportunities.  To highlight these, the team organized a special science session at this year’s meeting.  Session number 135, “Scientific Opportunities with JWST”, featured six presentations by AAS members on topics including planetary science, star formation, the Galactic center, the Magellanic Clouds, strong lensing and dark matter, and ultra-deep field imaging and spectroscopic studies.  STScI webcasted this session in real time, and have now posted all of the science presentations and slides on our website, https://webcast.stsci.edu/webcast/detail.xhtml?talkid=3387&parent=2.

One of the annual highlights of the project is to update the community on the technical progress of JWST.  The team did this during session 318, the “JWST Town Hall.”  This year’s Town Hall featured three short presentations followed by a Q&A with the community.  Eric Smith (NASA HQ) started by reporting the recent progress on the JWST hardware, including the delivery of two of the four science instruments from the European and Canadian Space Agencies to NASA.  Eric also showed the JWST schedule from now until launch in October 2018, and pointed out the major milestones along the way.  Following Eric, Randy Kimble (NASA GSFC) gave a short update on the integration and test plan of JWST over the next five years.  The final presentation was given by recent Kavli prize winner, Mike Brown (Caltech), who highlighted the tremendous potential of JWST for characterizing outer bodies in the Solar System.  STScI also webcasted this session.  All of the presentations and slides are available here, https://webcast.stsci.edu/webcast/detail.xhtml?talkid=3388&parent=2.

The JWST team interacted with hundreds of astronomers at the STScI booth, where we had science brochures and guides, multimedia products, and a survey on user tools.  The survey is still open, and the community is encouraged to complete it, https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEFSMkpjY1d6TF81RnNNTm1GQlc1T1E6MA#gid=0.

A new product that the team unveiled this year was the “Webb Telescope iBook.”  The iBook provides an interactive view of JWST, including its science goals and engineering.  Although it was designed for the general public, many astronomers at the meeting enjoyed exploring it on our iPads. The Webb Telescope iBook, as well as a “Hubble Space Telescope: Discoveries” iBook, is a free download in iBooks or from http://hubblesite.org/ibooks/ (you can also search for “James Webb Space Telescope” in the iTunes store).  Since the release about a month ago, the two iBooks have been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The large amount of astronomy research being presented at the AAS offers a unique opportunity to communicate science to the broader public.  While there are formal press releases, many of the posters and talks are not captured in any type of release.  STScI organized a google hangout on each day of the AAS, from the exhibit hall.  During the hangouts, different astronomers popped by to tell the world why they came to the Long Beach AAS meeting.  Even the NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, and former astronaut, John Grunsfeld, stopped by to talk about heliophysics.  The hangouts have been seen by thousands of people, and are posted on youtube.

In addition to these events, the JWST team participated in many other activities in Long Beach.  This included doing an interview for the Planetary Society’s Planetary Radio program (even Bill Nye weighed in – posted at www.planetary.org), giving talks at the NASA hyperwall, and giving an evening public talk at the nearby Columbia Memorial Space Center.

To keep up with JWST until the next AAS meeting, follow our conversations using #JWST on twitter.