HomeAstronomy & SpaceAstronomyMembers of the public won time on the James Webb Space Telescope

Members of the public won time on the James Webb Space Telescope

Do you believe that only professional astronomers will be able to use the James Webb Space Telescope? Consider again!

Three members of the public, known as citizen scientists, have discovered new astronomical objects that Webb will soon observe. One of these volunteers is a collaborator on a successful Webb proposal.

NASA will release the first full-color images and spectroscopic data from the James Webb Space Telescope later today, in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Long before that, citizen scientists at Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 were hard at work finding new nearby objects for Webb to investigate. All work on this citizen science project is aimed at the citizen scientists who discovered Webb.

“Even though the process was occasionally tedious, it was worthwhile,” said ArttuSainio, who discovered a new object that Webb will investigate. Sainio’s discovery is a “brown dwarf,” a ball of gas that is too cool to be classified as a star, and it holds the key to understanding exoplanets. “I find hundreds of brown dwarf candidates, many of whom have been followed up on and researched.” Melina Thevenot and Dan Caselden, two citizen scientists, discovered brown dwarfs that Webb will study.

Citizen scientist Dan Caselden expanded his involvement in Webb by becoming a co-investigator on a winning Webb observing proposal. The “Explaining the Diversity of Cold Worlds” proposal will investigate a group of twelve brown dwarfs that appear to have the same temperature but have different infrared brightness. “We will soon see our discoveries in ways never seen by mankind,” Caselden predicted. “These are special moments that we will remember for the rest of our lives.”

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is still looking for brown dwarfs and other astronomical objects close to the sun. Go to backyardworlds.org to join in the fun and possibly find your own James Webb Space Telescope target. Everyone is invited.


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