Once it’s in place, though, the Webb [Space Telescope] is quite literally expected to unlock a universe of discoveries. Positioned so far from the Earth and shielded from outside infrared interference, the telescope will be able to see things the Hubble never could. Chief among them: seeing back in time. Since light only travels so fast, the further you look out, the further you look back. The Webb is expected to be able to peer into some of the universe’s earliest moments, before even stars existed. This could give insight into how the cosmos came into being.

On top of that, the Webb is going to be looking at how the first galaxies were formed. From observations from Hubble and other telescopes, we know know most galaxies have huge black holes at their centers, but questions remain about how this symbiotic pairing of black holes and stars emerges. The answer likely has to do with “dark matter,” the term for the missing matter in the universe that scientists can observe the gravitational effects of, but can’t see directly. By looking into the formation of galaxies, the Webb may unlock the secrets of this mysterious substance.

Finally, the Webb may help answer the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will be able to see better than ever before planets in other star systems and more importantly—which ones have water. A planet with large amounts of water is a prime candidate for life, and the Webb could point us right to them.

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