Bringing Webb to the World

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Coolidge (Marriott Wardman Park)
Amber Straughn, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
It is no surprise that astronomers worldwide know about the Hubble Space Telescope: it is one of the most ubiquitous tools that astronomers use.  Hubble data has resulted in over 13,000 published peer-reviewed papers to date, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.  What is perhaps more surprising is that Hubble has become a beloved cultural icon around the world. 

As the scientific successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope will be ~100x more powerful scientifically, unveiling the first sources to light up the early universe after the Big Bang, and revealing atmospheres of extrasolar planets in unprecedented detail.  As astronomers, we expect the discoveries from JWST to transform our understanding of astronomy.  Bringing those discoveries to the world—and bringing the public along for the exciting ride leading up to launch—is of critical importance not only for creating and sustaining general interest in space science, but for inspiring the next generation to join the adventure of STEM research and development.

NASA and its partners have an excellent record of engaging the public using a wide variety of methods, from the most recent social media platforms to citizen science programs that engage people in analyzing actual scientific data.  At the end of last year, WIRED magazine declared that “NASA’s Social Media Team Wins the Internet.” With intentional coordination across organizations leading up to JWST’s launch, our multi-organization team is planning exciting new ways to bring Webb to the world, with the goal of making Webb a household name in the same way that Hubble has been for the past 26 years.