Webb Goes to Space?

Hefner Observatory was built at Webb in 2000.

By Steven S. Sittig

As NASA prepares to launch the James Webb Space Telescope, no doubt legions are wondering what this means for The Webb Schools.

Sadly, the telescopes at Webb’s Hefner Observatory will remain Earthbound. While a few of our scopes would do quite nicely in space, above the turbulent atmosphere, the Webb Space Telescope’s connection to Webb is indirect – though steeped in our deepest history.

James Webb, namesake of the soon-to-be launched observatory, was a cousin of Webb’s founder, Thompson Webb.

According to my sources, James Webb visited our campus in the 1960s when he was the NASA administrator. Perhaps he strolled with cousin Thompson and spouse Vivian on the site of our current observatory, tucked behind the Head’s house just south Faculty Field, discussing the universe and space-time and what could be discovered in the distant reaches of the human imagination.

So, pay close attention to this historic launch on December 24 (or about then), as Webb scopes conquer even more of our celestial neighborhood. Our land-based scopes share the San Gabriel Mountain range with the famous Mt. Wilson scopes, and now we’ll share our solar system with the James Webb.

Steven S. Sittig is director of Webb’s Hefner Observatory and a retired member of Webb’s science faculty.

December 14, 2021

12:27 PM PST