Today, we asked Heidi Hammel, Webb interdisciplinary scientist for solar system observations, to tell us about her plans for studying Earth’s nearest neighbors:
“I am really excited about Webb’s upcoming first year of science operations! I lead a team of equally excited astronomers eager to begin downloading data. Webb can detect the faint light of the earliest galaxies, but my team will be observing much closer to home. They will use Webb to unravel some of the mysteries that abound in our own solar system.
“One of the questions I get asked frequently is why we need a powerful telescope like Webb to study our nearby solar system. We planetary scientists use telescopes to complement our in situ missions (missions that we send to fly by, orbit, or land on objects). One example of this is how Hubble was used to find the post-
“My role with Webb as an ‘Interdisciplinary Scientist’ means that my program uses all of the capabilities of this forefront telescope! We need all of them to truly understand the solar system (and the universe!).
“Our solar system has far more mysteries than my team had time to solve. Our programs will observe objects across the solar system: We will image the giant planets and Saturn’s rings; explore many Kuiper Belt Objects; analyze the atmosphere of