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Aggies host a public watch party for the James Webb Space Telescope launch

Mary-Ann Muffoletto
USU Science and Technology News
In USU's Materials Physics Group lab, undergrad Crystal Tingle, left, and faculty mentor J.R. Dennison test composite materials planned for NASA’s Gateway Lunar Orbiting Outpost. The lab also tested materials for the James Webb Space Telescope.

Many students and scientists at USU will be waking up before sunrise on Christmas Day to watch the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, an engineering marvel 25 years in the making.

The James Webb Space telescope is the successor to the Hubble Space telescope which has been in service for over thirty years. Building on results from Hubble, The Webb carries technology that has the ability to study every phase in the history of our Universe. Unlike the Hubble, which is in a close orbit with earth, the Webb will be launched 1.5 million kilometers away. It also has a larger mirror that can peer farther back in time, possibly about 100 million years after the Bing Bang.

Students from the USU Chapter of Society of Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) have organized a public watch party to celebrate the launch of Webb. Crystal Tingle, a dual major in Physics and Engineering at USU helped organize the event.

“So I'm pretty sure that the mission is older than I am. So it's just been kind of one of those things that I've been following, like throughout high school and I've been really excited for. And I just had an idea like, hey, what if we got the community together to watch the launch? . . . And we decided to put on this event so that we could all come together and celebrate, as a community,” Tingle said.

JR Dennison, USU Professor in the Physics department and leader of USU’s Materials Physics Group, says the Webb telescope is going to change how we view the universe and is a major engineering achievement.

“This thing's so massive and so complicated, and it has to be designed to operate in conditions that we just can't simulate. How do you build something the size of a tennis court, it's folded up into a little ball, it goes into a rocket that goes out a million miles away and unfolds?" Dennison said. "I think the biggest contribution that James Webb may contribute is a complete paradigm shift in how engineers approach a problem, where they have to just rely totally on simulations.”

You can view the James Webb Space Telescope Public Watch Party on Zoom Christmas morning at 4:30am.