Stargazing: The Lehi Museum partners with NASA to teach about images from the Webb Telescope

NASA on Tuesday revealed four new images taken by the James Webb Telescope. This image shows the Carina Nebula. The Hutchings Museum Institute in Lehi, selected by NASA to officially host Webb events, hosted an event on Saturday to celebrate the telescope’s first (NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI) images.

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LEHI — Recent images from the James Webb Space Telescope spread around the world this week show new detailed photos of galaxies and stars showing snapshots billions of years in the past.

The Hutchings Museum Institute in Lehi, selected by NASA to officially host Webb events, on Saturday celebrated the first images released by the James Webb Space Telescope and shared what is being learned from the telescope’s images can.

Joshua Lothringer spoke about the meaning of the photos and answered questions; He is an assistant professor of physics at Utah Valley University and will be the principal investigator for two of his proposed Webb Space Telescope programs.

Lothringer said the project for the Webb telescope began about 20 years ago and launched on Christmas morning 2021. Folding out the mirrors and setting up the camera took a month – Lothringer said the telescope was about the size of a tennis court and also needed to be folded to be sent into space. He said there could be many different things that could cause the project to fail – 344 single points of failure – but everything went perfectly.

Pointed toward space from Earth, the telescope includes a significant sunshade that keeps the outward-facing side at about minus 390 degrees, while the sun-facing side is at about 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the presentation, Lothringer compared several images taken by the Hubble and Webb telescopes of the same area and explained that the Webb telescope reads infrared wavelengths – one of the reasons it must be so cold is that it his own can not read heat. The new telescope also has a mirror made of gold, because gold reflects red light with long wavelengths well.

Because the telescope doesn’t look at visible light, the photos shared by NASA have colors that are interpreted from colors seen in various images from the infrared light.

Webb’s infrared photos contain a lot of additional information, including the composition of galaxies and stars and their distance from the telescope. The telescope has shown galaxies so far away that we’re looking at what happened over 13.1 billion years ago, some of the first galaxies to follow the Big Bang, Lothringer said.

“Webb is going to tell you something any minute… and of course there’s more to come,” he said.

Joshua Lothringer, an assistant professor at UVU, speaks about how the James Webb Space Telescope was launched and deployed in space at an event at Hutchings Museum Institute on Saturday.
Joshua Lothringer, an assistant professor at UVU, speaks about how the James Webb Space Telescope was launched and deployed in space at an event at Hutchings Museum Institute on Saturday. (Photo: Emily Ashcraft, KSL)

The James Webb Space Telescope has enough fuel to keep it in orbit around the Sun for about twenty years, and each year scientists can submit proposals to have the telescope study something for them.

Lothringer had accepted two proposals, one to study brown dwarf stars and one to study exoplanets. He explained that information from the telescope is public, but if a specific person conducts a study, that information is private for up to a year to allow them to research before it becomes public.

Anyone can go online to see the schedule of where the telescope will be looking over the next week. Lothringer said it is currently viewing a supernova.

After the presentation, the museum played a live YouTube discussion with NASA scientists viewing the photos.

Daniela Larsen, executive director of the Hutchings Museum Institute, said the museum is committed to sharing information about current explorations. She said there is still much to discover, both on Earth and in space, and the fact that Webb is dealing directly with events that happened in the past is interesting for a museum.

“This is a generational moment in the exploration of the universe,” said Larsen. “We are excited to celebrate this great achievement with the community and our friends at NASA as the first detailed images from this wonderful telescope are made available to the world.”

She said getting involved in space exploration can inspire kids, and it’s good for them to have events where they can be engaged and curious. The museum has a NASA summer series of other space-related discussions with hopes of encouraging kids to bring a spirit of discovery to Utah.

“These images show the universe as it was millions of years ago and literally allow us to see the past of our solar system, our galaxy and distant galaxies from the earliest times of space. This exploration will uncover discoveries unimaginable today. It will help propel our planet into the future,” Larsen said.

The building that houses the museum was constructed in 1919 by World War I veterans, but there are plans to expand the building by 70,000 square feet by 2026 while retaining the historic facade. the city donated some land behind the building to accommodate the growth, Larsen said. She said they plan to continue working with NASA and National Geographic to bring interesting new exhibits.

She said the museum is unique because it is not a city, state, or church museum and focuses on local history from many different cultures that have contributed to the state’s history.

This is a generational moment in the exploration of the universe.

–Daniela Larsen, executive director of the Hutchings Museum Institute

Hutchings Museum Institute’s partnership with NASA provides teachers with access to continuing education and instructional resources, as well as the opportunity for teachers to bring students to the museum. This is part of NASA’s STEM Engagement and Educator Professional Development collaborative program.

“The STEM engagement program is a great way for teachers to leverage the exciting information, projects, and scientific knowledge collected through the Webb telescope and used by NASA and other scientists around the world in their teaching,” said Larsen.


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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. It covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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