Subject: JWST letter

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Fri, 19 Aug 2011 19:59:58 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1239 (previous: 1238, next: 1240 up: Index)

Dear APO and SDSS colleagues,

There's a letter to the White House science adviser from the astronomical 
community in support of JWST that is available for astronomers to sign 
online. The text of the letter is below. It is focused on science, so it 
doesn't include some other parts of JWST that we know are important (such 
as funding for grad students and postdocs).  Those aspects and many others 
are discussed on the AURA website if you are interested:

If you want to sign the letter and are from the US, go to this link:

and you can fill in your name and institution.

The link for non-US astronomers is here:

Feel free to forward the link(s) to other astronomers that might be 
interested in signing.  Note that this letter is meant for astronomers to 
sign, not the general public. Public support (including from astronomers, 
but only in the US) can be registered here:


Suzanne Hawley
Professor, Astronomy Department
University of Washington


Attention:  Professor John P. Holdren
White House Science Adviser
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

RE: The James Webb Space Telescope

Dear Professor Holdren,

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is in danger of cancellation. We are 
writing as members of the astronomical community to express our strongest 
support for JWST science.

JWST is planned as the next major space observatory because it will 
revolutionize fundamental astrophysics. Fifteen years after its selection, the 
science case is even stronger. No other facility, existing, planned or in 
construction, will match JWSTs capabilities. It will have 7 times the light 
grasp of Hubble, and 50 to 100 times the sensitivity of the Spitzer infrared 
space telescope. With sky background levels lower than any terrestrial 
observatory, JWST will outperform even future 30-meter class ground-based 
telescopes by orders of magnitude at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths.

Every ten years since 1960, the US astronomical community has collectively 
assessed its priorities for the coming decade. JWST was the highest priority 
recommendation of the 2000 Survey, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New 
Millenium; and its observations will be essential to the Astro2010 themes, 
Cosmic Dawn: Searching for the First Stars, Galaxies and Black Holes, and New 
Worlds: Finding and Preparing to Characterize Nearby Planets like Earth.

JWST will provide breakthrough observations of the first stages of galaxy 
formation. In 20 years, Hubble has detected no more than a handful of galaxies 
at redshifts z>8. A single deep field on JWST will likely resolve 30- 50 
galaxies at z=10, when the universe was 500 million years old. JWST has the 
potential to reach redshifts z~20, pushing to within 200 Myrs of the Big Bang.

JWST will provide crucial insight into the complex processes of star and planet 
formation . Coronagraphic imaging of individual protostars at mid-infrared 
wavelengths will reach contrast ratios from 10-5 to 10-8 at separations from 1 
to ~4 arcseconds, factors of 10 to 10,000 times better than even future 
30-meter ground-based telescopes. As a result, JWST will resolve detailed 
structure in protoplanetary disks, and obtain spectra of jovian-mass gas giants 
around young stars within ~100 pc of the Sun.

JWST will be a unique asset for characterizing the atmospheric properties of 
transiting planets. Indeed, JWST offers the only foreseeable prospect of 
probing the atmospheres of earth-like planets. Hubble and Spitzer played a 
pioneering role, detecting atomic and molecular species in a few systems. JWST 
will probe many more systems, expanding coverage to smaller planets around 
smaller stars.

Like Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer, JWST will be a general-purpose observatory, 
with broad and even transformative impact in almost every branch of astronomy. 
Its versatility will allow it to exploit emergent new scientific areas, whether 
in dark energy, cosmology, stellar, exoplanet or solar system research. Its 
extraordinary capabilities will ensure that US scientists remain at the 
forefront of astrophysical research in the coming decade.

Space-based astronomy is a key player in bringing science to the American 
public. Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer have transformed the way that we view the 
universe, and brought images of complex astrophysics phenomena into the daily 
lives of non-scientists. Like those observatories, JWST will not only inspire a 
new generation of students and scientists, but astound and excite the public at 

APO APO APO APO APO  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m  APO APO APO
APO  This is message 1239 in the apo35-general archive. You can find
APO  the archive on
APO  To join/leave the list, send mail to
APO  To post a message, mail it to