The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will look deeper into space than anything man has created. Many questions will be answered looking this far into space but one being, what were the characteristics of the first stars and galaxies? Ask your students the same question and debate in an open group discussion!
Here is some background information on the JWST.
Scientists have been able to use the COBE and WMAP satellites to detect heat signatures left by the Big Bang in what is called the After Glow. The After Glow was about 400,000 years after the Big Bang and was followed by 400 million years of darkness, rightly named the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages time period of space was an ocean of protons, neutrons, and electrons. The universe began cooling and particles stared combining into hydrogen and some helium atoms. In order for a hydrogen atom to form in that state requires reionization, the adding of an electron to the original atom. Scientists currently don't know reionization occurred but eventually over time these light weight elements coalesced into stars.
These stars are some of the first sources of light created 13.6 Billion years ago. Observing these sources of light in the present time is looking at light that is 13.6 Billion years old. Additionally the universe is expanding and farther away an celestial object is, faster that object is accelerating away from us. This acceleration expands the wavelength of the original light causing a shift. This shift causes visible light to become infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum pictured below. It is these infrared waves that the JWST will detect light that is 13.6 Billion years old.
When the JWST is launched we will be able to find out what were the first stars and galaxies, as well as how reionization occurred to create these first stars.
Show your students! The JWST is scheduled to launch October of 2018. Here is a time lapse of the primary mirrors being assembled over the last few months.