IAU Focus Meetings (GA)

FM11: JWST: Launch, Commissioning, and Cycle 1 Science

Start date/time

August 20, 2018, 10:30

End date/time

August 22, 2018, 15:00




Nikole Lewis

Coordinating Division

Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology, Division G Stars and Stellar Physics, Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe, Division J Galaxies and Cosmology

Summary of the Scientific Highlights

Highlights included:

  • The scientific prospects of JWST from within our solar system to the edge of the universe.
  • Solar system science with JWST: From the surfaces of asteroids to the atmospheres of giant planets.
  • Exoplanet science with JWST: From the birth of planets to the search for life.
  • Galactic science with JWST: From the birth and evolution of stars and everything in between.
  • Extragalactic science with JWST: From galaxies near to far and first light.
  • JWST for all astronomers: Cycle 1 science and future opportunities.
  • JWST's four remarkable instruments and their unique science capabilities.
  • Ensuring the science yield of JWST through ground-testing, commissioning, and calibration activities.

Executive Summary

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to revolutionize our understanding of the near- to mid-infrared sky by enabling observations with an unprecedented combination of superb angular resolution and sensitivity. Since JWST is a general-purpose observatory, its scientific success is dependent on the broader scientific community to make new discoveries. The 2018 IAU General Assembly served as an important international platform and offered an ideal opportunity to inform the broader community about current JWST status, plans for commissioning and Cycle 1 science, and what to expect in the near-future for JWST.

This was accomplished as part of a JWST focus meeting, held at the beginning of the General Assembly, August 20-22,2018. During the first day of the meeting, members of the design team for the four JWST science instruments (MIRI, NIRCam, NIRSpec, and NIRISS) discussed the science potential of their instruments. Presentations set the context for the many technologies developed and challenges overcome along the way to a space telescope, alongside the anticipated science returns.

The focus meeting also highlighted the science to be enabled by JWST early in its life cycle and touched on commissioning, Early Release Science (ERS), Guaranteed Time Observer (GTO), and General Observer (GO) programs slated for cycle 1. Over the second two days of the meeting, talks and discussion sessions centered around the broad science topics enabled by JWST, from our solar system to the edge of the universe. Speakers represented topics across the entire astronomical community, including: interstellar matter, the local universe, galaxies, cosmology, stars and stellar physics, planetary systems, and bioastronomy. Given the cross-disciplinary and international nature of JWST's mission, this focus meeting was the ideal opportunity to discuss the science that will be enabled with JWST in the near-term.

In addition, the focus meeting welcomed officials from NASA and ESA to update delegates on the current status of JWST and what to expect before science operations commence in 2021. Meanwhile, poster presentations offered delegates an opportunity to explore certain science topics more in depth, learn about proposal tools, and to explore possible new observation techniques.


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