Delightful Discovery Day:
Seeing Farther into the Universe
Jim Edwards-Hewitt, L. Y. Aaron Yung, Kathi Overton, and Jennifer Bartlett at JWST Discovery Day 2021 November 14. Credit: John Pomeranz.

On Sunday, November 14, the Friends and NASA hosted a delightful day of discovery to learn about seeing farther into the universe with the James Webb Space Telescope. We had an excellent turn-out for our first in-person science event in 18 months, which was held at the Arlington Mill Community Center. In addition, people joined us on-line for the streaming presentations. NASA selected the Friends as one of their community partners to celebrate the upcoming launch (December 22) of this exciting infrared space-based observatory.

L. Y. Aaron Yung, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at the Observational Cosmology Lab of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, explained how looking farther into the universe is also looking backward in time during his talk titled "The James Webb Space Telescope is actually a time machine!" Friends President Jennifer Bartlett also spoke about how viewing the universe at different wavelengths of light reveals distinct information in her talk about “Infrared ‘Eyes’ on the Universe."

Kathi Overton, Peter Roof, and Tom Wanat provided the audio-visual technology that made this hybrid event possible. Friends founder Alice Monet was available on-line to answer questions from remote participants.

An advantage of in-person events is the ability to share hands-on activities and experiments that make the science more understandable. Using an infrared imager available from the Alexandria Public Library, Terilee and Jim Edwards-Hewitt demonstrated how everyday objects look different in infrared light and how infrared light penetrates opaque plastic bags. John Pomeranz and Kenny Riggleman directed NASA-developed children’s activities.

Because English is not the first language of many families, Katy Youker, Anne Kenison, and Jack Person were available to translate for Spanish-speaking participants.

Steve Cordle ably managed COVID protocals and membership questions, ensuring a safe event for all.

If you missed the event, you can still watch the recorded live stream on our YouTube channel. You can also print some of the activity sheets: