WVU scientist says NASA’s Webb Telescope will boost space research at University, Green Bank Observatory

The first photos from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have given researchers the deepest and clearest infrared look into space to date.

West Virginia University researcher Maura McLaughlin, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology, is available to explain how this new technology will enhance the work she and her colleagues do at WVU as well as her students’ future endeavors.

McLaughlin studies neutron stars and their environments through radio, X-ray and gamma-ray observations. She is heavily involved in research at the Green Bank Observatory, a partner of WVU, in Pocahontas County and is one of the leaders of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, a citizen-science project that involves high school students across the U.S. in pulsar-related research.


On the potential for research at WVU

“One of my major research focuses is using large radio telescopes to observe a network of celestial clocks called pulsars in order to detect ripples in spacetime, or gravitational waves, from the supermassive black holes at the cores of merging galaxies. JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) should identify a number of distant galaxies that might host pairs of black holes at their cores that are good candidates for detection in our experiment. So, even though I work primarily with data from radio telescopes, the sources that will be discovered by JWST will be extremely valuable for our experiment. I also hope to get students in my classes involved in direct analysis of JWST images.”

On future studies at WVU

“Other faculty at WVU study star formation and galaxy formation and evolution and will more directly use JWST data to understand these processes and how they have shaped our universe over cosmic time.”

On the technology

“The JWST is the largest optical telescope ever put into space and is much more sensitive  than any other telescope. It will provide  unique new insights into the very first stars and galaxies and how they formed and also will help us understand the origins of planets and life in the universe.”

Other resources:

Aiming for the sky and beyond: WVU helps net $2 million NSF award to build international gravitational wave detection network

WVU astronomers help detect the most massive neutron star ever measured

Green Bank Observatory, site for breakthrough WVU research and teaching, to remain open

Maura McLaughlin honored with SURA Distinguished Scientist Award