The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

First Images from Webb Telescope Released

Jul 18, 2022

NASA released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope last Tuesday. The Webb telescope is the most powerful space-based telescope ever built. It was a collaboration between NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies. Webb orbits at a point a million miles out from the planet Earth; it got there late this February. It’s been scanning the cosmos since; these images are the first of what should be many.

One image was of the Carina Nebula, a giant gas cloud 7800 light years distant. This cloud is a place where gravity pulls the dust together to form new stars. Another image is a spectrum, that is a “fingerprint,” of the light coming from a planet that is orbiting a distant star. The light, collected by the Webb telescope, tells us that this planet has clouds and water in its atmosphere. This planet probably does not harbor life, but the work shows that the Webb telescope may be able to find other planets, far from our own solar system, which do.

One image released was of Stephan’s Quintet, a set of five galaxies, that is, five giant clouds of stars, with tens of millions of stars like our sun in each. Four of those galaxies are orbiting each other. Their gravitational pull will eventually bring them all together into one more massive galaxy. There is a fifth galaxy, to fill out the “quintet” of the name, but it is much closer—it just happens to “be in the picture.”

The Webb telescope cost 10 billion dollars. So yes, it is expensive, but it is money much better spent than the 40 billion that Biden sent to Ukraine for weaponry, and at the drop of a hat.

Thousands of scientists, engineers, administrators, and workers worked together to build and launch the James Webb Telescope, and as we can see, it is a collaboration between the space agencies of many countries. The Webb telescope reminds us of what we, humanity, are capable of. We can investigate the length and breadth of the universe, and peer back more than 13 billion years, to look at the aftermath of the Big Bang, that is, the beginning of the universe.

But at the same time, it stands in stark contrast to the fact that, with all our technology, with all its ability to produce, capitalism refuses to feed, clothe, and house an enormous portion of our population.