The James Webb Space Telescope: Astronomy now and in the future

Ref: C2339582

A 100 years ago marked a 1st golden age of astronomy: we are privileged to be living in a 2nd golden age. Technologically, the 2020s will see Earth-based 'super-scopes' that will reveal the cosmos with 12 or 15 times the clarity of Hubble. Probes of ever greater sophistication are due to launch, including the long awaited James Webb space telescope. Gravitational astronomy is in its infancy. What wonders such advances will reveal can only be surmised. But their import is not confined to merely extending some cosmic catalogue. Rather are they slowly closing in on some of the great human questions: are we alone in this cosmos? Is there, around some distant star, an Earth-like planet home to some form of primitive life? Is there intelligence inhabiting a distant world? What is the nature of our universe? Are there other universes? Could we detect them? These are just some of the exciting questions and topics this course seeks to address. .

Course aim

Sadly the james Webb ST is delayed till 2020. However the tutor believes this is a golden age for astronomy when great wonders yet unknown will be discovered.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for the interested lay-person. It is NOT about practical astronomy. You do NOT need a telescope. What you DO NEED is a curiosity about what's out there and how the big picture fits together.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give an account of the recent technical advances which are powering the development of a new generation of super-scopes.
  • Describe how modern telescopes cover the whole range of the EM spectrum.
  • Name some of the pioneers of the modern telescope and give a brief account of their lives.
  • Give an account of specific areas where the modern telescope is providing essential evidence e.g. exoplanets, the first stars, the origin of the universe, etc..
  • Indicate how astronomy might develop in the next decade e.g. gravitational wave, lunar, gravitational lensing, etc.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • The tutorial materials are designed to provide more input than can be accommodated in a 2-hr session. You will gain most from the course by assimilating the tutorial material at your own speed & in your own time - about another 2-hrs/week.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • The course is not really about 'progress' as each session is self-contained. There is time for questions and discussion so you can get an on-going feel for your understanding. You are asked to complete a self-evaluation slip at the session's end.

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Notebook & pen would be useful, and a folder for organising the tutorial handouts for later reading. A curiosity about things is the main requirement! Some basic space awareness & some maths would be helpful but not essential – pick it up as you go.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Acquaintance with basic space terms such as 'solar system', 'star', 'planet', 'light year' etc would be helpful: a basic book on astronomy would cover such items. is a well known WEB site which would be worth a look.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • The tutor will encourage you to follow-up this short course by keeping in touch with this fast evolving field with new discoveries being made literally daily. Despite the delay to the JWST, it's still a very exciting time to follow astronomy!

Download full course information sheet

The James Webb Space Telescope: Astronomy now and in the future


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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