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  • Writer's pictureJohn Garcia

The James Webb Space Telescope - One Year Later

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched December 25, 2021 at 4:22 AM PST from the Guiana Space Center. Built by Northrop Grumman and the Ball Aerospace & Technologies companies, we have witnessed remarkable ground breaking discoveries made the JWST. I was fortunate enough to see the JWST in the high-bay at Northrup Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA. (while attending a meeting for the Space Force) as the spacecraft was being prepared for shipment to the Guiana Space Center.

Recent Discovery

As of now, the JWSP is operating with the most sensitive optics ever for called the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), detecting infrared cosmic light radiation (wavelengths longer than the human eye can see). Since the first images which began July 6, 2022, the JWSP has been making discoveries that has the potential for changing cosmic history as we know it. The JWSP has captured never before imagined images of Jupiter together with its rings (yes, rings), surface details, and satellites.

The most recent discovery from JWSP and topic of this writing, is the unprecedented details captured of star birth in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex (HIP80473) located in the constellation Ophiuchus. This 5th magnitude object is calculated at being 22,400 Kelvin. To put this into perspective, our Sun is said to be 5800 Kelvin. The complex has a estimated distance of 390 light years from the Earth.

The Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex is comprised of dark nebulae, dust clouds, and reflection nebulae. The dark nebulae are dense regions of gas and dust that obscure the light of stars behind them, resulting in striking silhouettes against the bright background stars. The dust clouds are rich in complex organic molecules, such as carbon-based compounds, and serve as nurseries for new star formation. The reflection nebulae within the complex appear blue or reddish, and they occur when nearby stars illuminate the surrounding dust, causing it to scatter and reflect their light.

390 Light years from Earth! - Okay, let’s put this into perspective as I am amazed. The Earth travels around the Sun at 29.78 kilometers per second (18.5 M/S), or 107,200 km/h (66,600 mph). In one second light travels 299,792 km/s (186,282 M/S) in a vacuum. The rate that the Earth travels around the Sun, it will take Earth approximately 3.92 trillion years to reach the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex.

How long would it take the Earth to travel 390 light years, if the Earth is travels at 107,200 km/h.

To calculate the time it would take for Earth to travel a distance of 390 light-years at a speed of 107,200 kilometers per hour, we need to convert the distance into kilometers and then divide it by the speed. First, let's convert 390 light-years into kilometers. Since 1 light-year is approximately 9.461 trillion kilometers, we can multiply the distance by this conversion factor:

390 light-years * 9.461 trillion kilometers = 3.68 quadrillion kilometers Now, we can calculate the time it would take: 3.68 quadrillion kilometers / 107,200 kilometers per hour = 34.34 trillion hours.

To convert this time into years: 34.34 trillion hours / 8,760 hours per year (average number of hours in a year) ≈ 3.92 trillion years.

Therefore, it would take Earth approximately 3.92 trillion years to travel a distance of 390 light-years at a speed of 107,200 kilometers per hour. It's important to note that this calculation assumes a constant speed over an incredibly long period, which is purely hypothetical and not feasible with our current understanding of physics and technology.


This recent discovery that the JWSP has made, this complex is of great interest to astronomers as it provides valuable insights into the processes of star formation and the interplay between molecular clouds, dust, and young stellar objects. It offers a relatively close and accessible laboratory for studying the physical properties, dynamics, and chemical composition of star-forming regions. For a full list of JWSP discoveries, go to the James Webb Discoveries on the web.

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